Houston Rockets 96, San Antonio Spurs 95: That James Harden again

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The bane of the San Antonio Spurs’ existence during last summer’s Western Conference Finals series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, James Harden continue to be a thorn in the Spurs’ sides. Harden hit a contested jumper from the free throw line area with 4.5 seconds left to beat San Antonio at the Toyota Center in Houston.

The Spurs had a chance on the other end after a timeout, but Tim Duncan couldn’t sink a contested jumper of his own and Manu Ginobili’s followup attempt didn’t fall.

In short, this was a strange and exciting game. Neither team seemed happy with the calls that were being made and several times it seemed this game was on the brink of becoming a blowout, only to have the team that was down come back and even the game up.

Tony Parker led the Spurs with 23 points and seven assists, again with Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich calling Parker’s number down the stretch. There was one play, however, with about 30 seconds left where  Houston guard Patrick Beverley was switched onto Manu Ginobili.

Beverley is listed at 6’1″ and the Spurs apparently wanted to attack that mismatch. The only problem with that strategy is that it meant Parker would not be getting the ball. San Antonio held a one-point lead at the time and made every effort to get the ball to Ginobili.

That didn’t happen and Tim Duncan eventually drove from near the top of the key, kicked the ball out to the opposite wing and Danny Green, who then swung it to Kawhi Leonard in the corner. Leonard’s 3-point attempt hit the side of the backboard and the Rockets secured the rebound. A Houston timeout eventually led to Harden’s game-winning jumper.

I’m not trying to say that attempting to exploit a mismatch late in the game was a mistake. I simply think that you want a play to be run for Tony Parker at that point in the game. While Manu Ginobili was once the guy you want with the ball in his hands late in the games, that responsibility/burden/privilege is Parker’s now. Ginobili simply hasn’t had the type of season making it necessary to get him the ball in that situation, no matter what matchup he may have.

Sure, hindsight is great. If Leonard hits that 3-pointer, we’re not having this conversation. But it didn’t go in and I need something to write about.

The Spurs will encounter many a one possession game in the playoffs. Dropping one game on the road to the Rockets in March isn’t a cause for concern, but you hope to see better late game execution from the Spurs next time.

  • Graham

    Tough bounce, though I suppose credit is due to Houston’s defense as well. I can live with a 1 point loss in Houston, think the unforced Turnovers are what did us in though.

  • Colin

    Ginobili’s play is troubling, I don’t recall seeing him play through a stretch this bad since rookie season.

    Leonard’s excellent offensive play is no longer icing on the cake, it is now required in games like these where Ginobili disappears, throws up horrible jumpers and utterly fumbles possessions with one handed passes fading away across his body and through the defense across court.

    With all that said, 1 or 2 fewer turnovers would have won this game.

  • Andrew G

    The one thing I keep playing back in my mind is James Harden flying sideways and screaming after ABSOLUTELY NO CONTACT.

    The thing that really frustrates me is how similar James Harden and Manu Ginobili are in play styles. However, when Manu exaggerates, there are at least people within his immediate vicinity using their bodies to generate contact. Manu exaggerates, Harden just flat out flops.

    Duncan usually puts his hands up after a foul, admitting some responsibility but protesting in his own way that he didn’t think it earned a foul call. After that call, he simply put his hands on his hips and stared down at Harden. ‘Nuff said.

  • Graham

    Yeah, I agree on Leonard. Those transition dunks and 4 or 5 buckets he gets in the interior are rapidly becoming a necessity instead of a bonus, in addition to his essential corner 3s

  • Sir_Thursday

    I don’t think there’s much separating Manu and Harden’s flops really. This pretty much sums it up: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQ247wtv8hU

  • junierizzle

    I think the play of the game was Green getting blocked on a what seemed like a 3 on 1 fastbreak. They should have converted. They would’ve have been up six with less than a minute remaining. And of course they should have gone to TP. He’s the reason they took the lead. I’ve been defending Manu and I’m not ready to throw dirt on him like other people but it clearly wasn’t his night last night. And you can go to him or any other person but TP last night. He was in a zone.

    As for Manu let’s just be thankful this funk is happening now and not in the playoffs. I still think he is capable of a big game or two, or three. But the good news. is we don’t need him to be huge. 9-12 points is enough from Manu. It’s Green,Splitter and Leonard that have to be huge.

  • chromao

    If the Spurs play this erraticaly the next three games, we are certainly dropping to 2nd seed and will probably face this same Houston team in the playoffs. While I would like to beat the Lakers to avenge 2004 and 2008, I am inclined to admit it would be favourable for us to face Houston than to face a complete Lakers team with Gasol healthy, as disfunctional as they seem to be right now.

  • Andrew G

    Lol, while funny to watch, it kinda proves my distinction. Harden was at least there, touching Manu. Last night, Harden simply jumped sideways into nothing and screamed, foul given.

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  • http://profiles.google.com/lordxar Ray Briggs II

    Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. Same story on a different night it seems. The Spurs have looked very…mortal over the last month and it’s starting to concern me. I know they were without Tony for a while but the competition during that stretch wasn’t great for the most part.
    Spurs have fallen outside of Top 5 in offensive efficiency for the first time this season I believe. I hope they can put together a good stretch here and get back in the groove.

  • Len

    No way. Bring on the old Lakers who play virtually no defense. Besides, it’s obvious karma wants Spurs vs Lakers and Thunder vs Rockets. Who are we to argue with karma? ^^