Rockets ready for Texas showdown with Spurs
Wins in two of the first four contests of a season-high five-game road trip have the Houston Rockets bringing a modicum of momentum into Wednesday's game against the San Antonio Spurs. The Texas showdown will take place at the AT&T Center in San Antonio.
The Rockets, who beat Washington 114-106 on Monday, have played five of their seven games this season on the road. They may be landing in the Alamo City at the best time, if there's ever really such a thing.
San Antonio (5-2), which was almost bulletproof last season when it won 40 of its 41 regular-season games at the AT&T Center, has dropped two in a row at home – including an ugly 116-92 setback to the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday. In that game, the Spurs surrendered 39 points in the first quarter and 73 by halftime after being up 8-0 in the early minutes.
It was just the second time in Gregg Popovich's 21-year tenure in San Antonio that an opponent scored 70 or more points in a half.
“You just see what you did well in every game, see what you did poorly and go practice and move on to the next game,” Popovich said Monday, when asked about the home swoon. “Spending time wondering why is a waste of time.”
Forward Kawhi Leonard, who had led the Spurs in scoring in the team's first six games, scored just 14 points (less than half his average) in the loss to Los Angeles, with all of the points coming in the first half.
“They got away from us in the first quarter, mainly on transition baskets when they leaked out and we didn't get back,” Leonard said Saturday after the loss. “But we didn't do well on offense either. In our two losses, our defense in the first quarter has hurt us. We feel like we've given two (games) away.”
Point guard Tony Parker has missed the past three games with a hyperextended knee suffered in the season opener against Golden State. He is expected to play on Wednesday after going through the Spurs' entire practice without incident on Monday.
Houston (4-3) utilized stout defense and 32 points from guard James Harden (14 in the fourth quarter) to turn back a late charge by Washington on Monday.
“We had two really good defensive quarters and two really bad ones and we just need to smooth it out,” Houston coach Mike D'Antoni said. “We did enough to win. We are not even close to being the team we are going to be – there's plenty of room for improvement.”
Harden is enjoying the freewheeling opportunities D'Antoni's offense allows him. Teammates are taking advantage as well; forward Ryan Anderson scored 23 points and led the Rockets with five 3-pointers and guard Trevor Ariza added 15 points against the Wizards. Harden racked up 15 assists.
“This offense gives me a lot more space, a lot more room for me to get to the basket and for me to find guys,” Harden said. “You have to respect our shooters. The guys just knocked down some shots tonight and we found our rhythm in the fourth quarter.”