Spurs-Rockets Preview

The Houston Rockets don’t have much margin for error down the

stretch if they hope to make the playoffs, but at least they have

the benefit of playing 11 of their final 16 at the Toyota

Center.

Two of those games, however, are against the San Antonio

Spurs.

With the status of Luis Scola’s left knee up in the air, the

Rockets kick off a season-high six-game homestand Saturday night

against the league-best Spurs.

Houston (33-33) has won 11 of 16 since Feb. 2, but remains in

11th place in the Western Conference – the same spot it was when it

was 22-28.

The Rockets have at least cut two games off what was a five-game

deficit behind the conference’s No. 8 seed, and 10th-place Utah has

plummeted since trading Deron Williams. Houston missed a huge

chance to overtake another team above them Tuesday, though, falling

113-110 at ninth-place Phoenix.

“It’s a tough loss, a tough loss,” coach Rick Adelman said. “We

didn’t guard them well in the second half and they made

shots.”

The absence of Scola, the Rockets’ second-leading scorer at 18.5

points per game, certainly didn’t help. The end of Scola’s streak

of 311 games played to begin his career might linger, as well. He

didn’t practice Friday for the second consecutive day, and is a

game-time decision.

A second-round pick of the Spurs in 2002, Scola has averaged

20.0 points and 10.9 rebounds in his last seven games against San

Antonio.

Rookie Patrick Patterson showed Tuesday that the Rockets won’t

be totally lost if Scola has to miss more time. Playing a

season-high 28 minutes, Patterson had 18 points and three

steals.

San Antonio (53-12) has seen its star backcourt duo come up big

in two home wins against Houston. Manu Ginobili has averaged 25.0

points and Tony Parker 19.0 with 9.5 assists in the victories,

which included a wild 124-121 overtime win Nov. 6.

They did it again Friday, helping the Spurs compensate for the

absence of Richard Jefferson. Parker had a game-high 27 points and

Ginobili added 24 in a 108-103 victory against visiting

Sacramento.

Tim Duncan was key too, scoring eight of his 15 points in the

final seven minutes.

“I thought our ‘Big Three’ pulled it out for us,” coach Gregg

Popovich said. They dug down deep. Tony carried us in the third

quarter, and then Manu and Timmy. Those three guys were great

tonight.”

Jefferson, who missed the game to attend to a personal matter,

is expected to play Saturday. Houston wouldn’t mind if he didn’t,

considering he’s been just as valuable as Ginobili and Parker,

averaging 20.0 points in the series.

Jefferson hit 7 of 8 shots in a 108-95 win over the Rockets on

Jan. 29, after which Scola called the Spurs “the best team in the

NBA, period.”

If Scola can’t go, Houston could really use a boost from leading

scorer Kevin Martin, who’s been held to 16.0 points per game – 6.8

below his average – and shot 33.3 percent in his last four

contests.

Martin has averaged 17.0 points against the Spurs this season.

If he scores 19 or fewer, the Rockets are 6-15. They’re 26-17 when

he goes for 20 or more.

San Antonio concludes a three-game trip next week at Miami and

Dallas.