San Antonio Spurs 115, Houston Rockets 107: The defense came around, eventually
Following their victory over the Sacramento Kings, before boarding a flight for Houston, a noticeably frustrated Gregg Popovich and several members of the San Antonio Spurs remarked that if their play of the past week continued they would find little success on the road.
“There are some opponents that are going to let you do this, but Houston desperately needing wins to get to the eighth seed, and then Miami and Dallas, it’s not going to happen,” Manu Ginobili said. “We’re going to have to play way better from minute one to 48 and go back to where we were 10 days ago defensively.”
Consider the Spurs 0-1 on their bold prediction.
Playing without Luis Scola, the Houston Rockets managed to put together an offensively dominant third quarter, taking the Spurs deep into the fourth quarter with the game in doubt. For the game, the Spurs surrendered 48 percent shooting (40 percent from three). The defense did not improve, yet the victory remained the same.
And if the performance did not spark much confidence heading into games at Miami and Dallas, remember that these Houston Rockets are not Miami or Dallas. In an 82-game season that has gone as successful as this one has so far, sometimes the opponent is merely boredom.
There are two tenets of the Spurs defensive philosophy that has kept the team in the upper echelon of defensive efficiency even as their individual talent for it slipped: three-point shooting and free throw attempts. At times, the San Antonio Spurs abandoned both of them.
Twenty-five free throw attempts in all for the Houston Rockets, which isn’t bad for an unfocused team against the like of Kevin Martin.
In terms of scoring, Martin and Ginobili are almost soul mates, buttressing lower field goal percentages with a large number of three-pointers and free throw attempts. Stat geeks unite.
And though there will be some that will want to point to the Spurs flagging defense, or what feels like growing rebounding problems, it’s almost impossible to get a big picture judgment from such an irrelevant game.
For all the worries, this game never really was one. These Spurs were simply far too deep, landing eight players in double figures and as always, executing down the stretch.
Miami and Dallas are ahead next week, and with them will be reasons to worry or rejoice. For now, on a team that has already surpassed its win total from a year ago–against these Rockets on a random Saturday night–it’s hard to fault a win. Even if the Spurs do.