Rockets-Spurs Preview

James Harden once again was tough to stop for the San Antonio

Spurs last month.

The Spurs, however, may not have to worry about the Houston

Rockets’ top scorer in Wednesday night’s home meeting between the

Southwest Division’s top teams.

Houston (18-11) had dropped seven straight at San Antonio before

a 112-106 victory Nov. 30. Harden was the catalyst, scoring a

game-high 31 points with seven rebounds and six assists.

The shooting guard will be a game-time decision for this

Christmas matchup after missing the last two games with a sprained

left ankle. He is averaging 30.5 points over his last four against

the Spurs (22-6), who are well aware that Harden ranks third in the

NBA with 8.6 foul shots per game.

“It’s not an easy task,” San Antonio guard Danny Green said.

“We’ll try to do as best we can of trying to play good straight-up

defense without giving him easy ones at the free-throw line.”

San Antonio will get its first look of the season at Jeremy Lin,

who missed the first meeting due to a sprained right knee.

Lin also missed four games in a row with back spasms before

returning in Monday’s 111-104 home loss to Dallas. He had 20

points, five turnovers and two assists.

“I felt like every pass I threw was deflected,” Lin said. “I

just got to keep playing and keep trying to make the passes and do

better.”

Lin faces a major challenge in his point guard matchup with Tony

Parker, who had 26 points and eight assists in Monday’s 112-99 home

win over Toronto.

“We won that game because of Tony Parker’s aggressiveness,”

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “His juice; his aggression all

night long. And we made some 3s in the fourth quarter. Those are

the two reasons we won the game.”

San Antonio made 6 of 7 from 3-point range in the fourth quarter

after going 3 of 16 in the first 36 minutes. Green made all four of

his long-range attempts in the final period in his second straight

game off the bench after he started the first 26.

Marco Belinelli, second in the league in 3-point shooting at

51.1 percent, is now starting. He has unpleasant memories of his

Christmas game last season with Chicago, which lost 120-97 at home

to the Rockets.

“Last year when I was in Chicago, I played against Houston and

we lost by 25, I think,” he said. “So this year I’m going to try

and be more aggressive and we will see tomorrow.”

Houston ranks third in the NBA with 50.0 points per game in the

paint behind Dwight Howard, who is averaging 18.7 points and leads

the league with 9.6 free-throw attempts per game. The Rockets have

attempted an NBA-high 770 3-pointers, ranking third by making

272.

“Last time we played them they were the number one in the league

in points in the paint and number one shooting behind the arc,”

Green said. “I don’t know if they still are but we know how

effective they are and how good they can be.”

The Rockets placed all five starters in double figures in points

in last month’s meeting, but Patrick Beverley will miss this one

with a broken hand that will sideline him for at least a month.