Rockets-Spurs Preview

Fine or no fine, Gregg Popovich isn’t likely to change his

philosophy on resting starters throughout the season.

So far, the San Antonio Spurs’ bench has been ready to answer

the coach’s call.

The Spurs, though, won’t get a break in the schedule Friday

night when they host the Houston Rockets, losers of five straight

on the road.

San Antonio’s reserves nearly led the team to a win at Miami on

Nov. 29 after Popovich sent four starters home to rest before the

nationally televised contest.

Popovich, whose team was later fined $250,000 for his action,

went to his bench out of necessity on Wednesday night.

With Danny Green (hamstring), Stephen Jackson (finger), Kawhi

Leonard (knee) and Patty Mills (ankle) out because of injuries, the

Spurs displayed their depth again in a 110-99 victory over

Milwaukee.

Gary Neal started in place of Green and scored 22 points, Tiago

Splitter finished with 15, Manu Ginobili had 11 and Matt Bonner

added a season-high 12 rebounds off the bench.

Even with Neal moving into the starting lineup, San Antonio’s

bench had 40 points, 25 rebounds and 13 assists, and fueled a late

36-13 run that keyed the team’s seventh win in eight games.

The Spurs (15-4) rank near the top of the Western Conference in

bench scoring at 39.8 points per game. They’ll continue to need a

complete team effort with this contest starting a stretch of three

games in four nights.

“They’re talented,” said Tony Parker, who led the starters with

22 points. “They showed it in Miami and they showed it again. Pop

is always trying to do stuff to make sure our bench is

performing.”

Tim Duncan, who had 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Bonner led an

impressive performance on the boards. San Antonio outrebounded

Milwaukee 53-36, including 28-17 in the second half.

The Spurs hope to match that effort against the Rockets (9-8),

who rank near the top of the NBA in rebounding (45.2 per game).

Omer Asik ranks third in the league with 12.1 per contest.

The Rockets also received a boost from their bench on Tuesday

night. Toney Douglas scored a season-high 22 points, Greg Smith

added a career-best 21 and Carlos Delfino had 15 in a 107-105 win

over the Los Angeles Lakers.

“We had a lot of guys struggle, but our bench was good,” said

interim coach Kelvin Sampson. “There is a lot to be said about

having guys on the bench that you trust that can come through.”

James Harden, the team leader with 23.6 points per game, will

try to break out of a 13 for 51 (25.5 percent) shooting slump over

his last three games.

After averaging 23.0 points in his previous three games, Patrick

Patterson is also looking to get back on track after a six-point

effort on Tuesday.

Houston shot just 37.6 percent from the field – including 7 of

34 (20.6 percent) from beyond the arc – against the Lakers after

shooting 50.3 percent in its previous four games.

While the Rockets have averaged 111.7 points in winning five of

six, all five of those victories have come at home. They’re just

2-5 on the road and haven’t won there since the second game of the

season.

Houston, which split the four-game series with the Spurs last

season, will try to avoid a sixth straight loss in San Antonio.