Quick take: Rockets (9-8) vs. Spurs (15-4)

Dec 4, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets center Omer Asik (3) attempts to drive the ball to the basket during the first quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Spurs will win if: The Rockets, averaging 95.4 possessions per 48 minutes, high octane pace won’t affect the Spurs much. San Antonio typically operates at a high pace as it is, checking in with the league’s fifth highest pace rating.

If San Antonio can make the most of their possessions, especially if Danny Green and Patty Mills return to the lineup, in what looks to be a high-scoring game, a win should be theirs for the taking.

The Spurs will lose if: James Harden makes more than 40 percent of his field goal attempts. When the league’s reigning Sixth Man of the Year fails to shoot better than 40 percent from the field, the Rockets are 1-7.

X-Factor: By signing a guy who scored fewer than nine points per 36 minutes in the first two seasons of his career to a three-year, $25.1 million contract, Houston was puzzling many fans.

Who is this Omer Asik guy anyway?

Asik played sparingly with the Chicago Bulls, typically manning the back line of the Bulls’ vaunted bench defense. While he rarely played more than 20 minutes — he surpassed the 20 minute threshold 19 times in two seasons — Asik, and his counterpart Taj Gibson, exerted a considerable amount of effort on defense.

It is no secret that Chicago — whose defense finished second in adjusted defensive rating last season — benefited from Asik. The Bulls allowed 89.7 points per 100 possessions with Asik on the floor according to NBA.com/Stats, about 10 points less than the top-ranked Celtics defense.

Though he hasn’t been nearly as impactful this season, Asik, owner of the league-best defensive rating last season, has positively influenced the Rockets defense. The Rockets allow 2.5 points per 100 possessions fewer with Asik on the court and though he has only attempted three shots outside the paint this season, Houston has a higher effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage. The offense is weaker — by three points per 100 possessions — but since Asik is often paired with James Harden, Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons, this isn’t a huge long-term issue.

If the Spurs, fourth in field goals at the rim per HoopData, are to score in the interior, they will have to do so against one of the league’s premier interior defenders.

Topics: Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs

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