The Spurs had been riding on a two game winning streak powered by a newly resurgent defense that held their previous two opponents under 100 points. Tonight, without their two best players, Devin Vassell and Keldon Johnson, the Spurs defense returned to its former porosity, allowing the quicker and more athletic Rockets to drive to the basket at will which led to an almost uncountable number of spectacular dunks for the players in red. The Spurs were able to keep pace for much of the game due to some terrific shooting from Devonte’ Graham which helped to mask their awful defense to a degree. The Rockets turned up their defense in the final quarter, and San Antonio wilted under the pressure to lose 122-110.
The game started with a quick pace by both teams, but defensive breakdowns from the Spurs led to a Kenyon Martin Jr. Alley-Oop for 16-10 lead. After a timeout and a lecture from Coach Pop, the team turned up the defense and regained the lead with a flurry of forced turnovers and solid defensive plays. The Spurs led 32-29 after a quarter.
Boban started the second quarter with an and-one, and the Spurs looked a step slow on defense as the Rockets forced turnovers and used fast breaks to regain the lead. After KMart broke free for what seemed like 14 dunks (it was two), Pop finally called another timeout to settle his team. It worked, as the Spurs took better care of the ball and Devonte’ Graham went nuclear from beyond the arc to lead the Silver and Black into a lead, and his 20 first half points were the main reason the Spurs were still in the game, as the Rockets dominated the paint. The Spurs defense fell apart late, and the dunk parade continued as the Rockets scored 41 in the quarter leading 70-68 at the half.
The Spurs came out of the locker room in a coma, as the Rockets went on a 7-0 run to start off the second half over the moribund Silver and Black. Another timeout woke up the guys, but a lot of the damage had been done, and the Spurs were able to keep pace with scoring, but the lack of stops meant they were treading water for most of the rest of the quarter. The Spurs made some noise late in the quarter with Charles Bassey in the paint, but a late turnover gave the Rockets the final points as they led 95-90. The good news was that the Spurs held the Rockets to 25 in the quarter, the bad news was that they only scored 22.
The Spurs started to look like the team which couldn’t close a game on the first games of the RRT, and a sequence where the Rockets ran back on a fast break and then stole the inbounds pass gave them a 12-4 run to start the final quarter to take a 13 point lead. By the time Garuba sunk a wide open triple with 6 minutes left, the Spurs looked cooked, trailing by 17. The Rockets are a 13-win team, so they managed to make it a bit more interesting by demonstrating they didn’t know how to play with a lead, but the Spurs couldn’t catch them as they lost by 12.
- I usually count on rewinding plays while I’m writing recaps to rewatch plays that I missed. Since I’m watching this game over the air with no DVR, the first impression is the only impression I’ll get from watching a play. I doubt it’ll make that much difference in the final product, it’ll probably be as slapdash as ever.
- Bill Land got through Mamukelashvili’s name correct in the pre-game, and he announced that from now on, he’d just go with Mamu, which makes a lot of sense to me.
- With all of the injuries, the Spurs starting lineup was Devonte’ Graham, Zach Collins, Keita Bates-Diop, Jeremy Sochan and Tre Jones. The lack of size in the backcourt could be a problem.
- Romeo Langford got back on the court for the first time in a while, and looked solid on defense.
- Boban Marjanovic, the NBA’s most charismatic player, entered the game late in the first quarter, and outshone everyone else in the arena for the moments he was on the court. He just scored 4 points in the game, but they were probably the most fun 4 points in the history of the league.
- Julian Champagnie scored his first points as a Spur late in the first on a banked in triple, and it was fine—his second shot was even better, as it tickled the net for three more points.
- Mario Elie was the sideline guest who had a pretty good history with both teams on the court tonight.
- Whoever sews the names on Spurs uniforms had to work overtime today to get Mamukelashvili’s name on his jersey. I’m kind of surprised it all fit.
- Devonte’ Graham has no conscience when he shoots. He’s just the kind of gunner any good team needs coming off the bench. I can’t wait until he’s in that role.
- The defensive renaissance of the San Antonio Spurs was pretty short, just two games, as they gave up 70 in the first half tonight.
- The Rockets just have too much talent to only have 13 wins. It’s almost like they’re losing on purpose.
- The Spurs couldn’t solve the Rockets fast break, and gave them plenty of opportunities with turnovers and defensive miscues. This would have been a competitive game with just a little better contain on their run outs, but the Spurs failed at it again and again.
For the Rockets fans’ perspective, please visit The Dream Shake.
After tonight’s game, both teams are heading east on I-10 for a rematch tomorrow night at 6:00 PM in Houston. It’ll be fun, TANK OFF II: This time it’s personal!