San Antonio Spurs News

Spurs overpowered by Rockets, 124-109: Recap, highlights and more

By Rob Wolkenbrod
HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 15: James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets shoots over Tony Parker #9 of the San Antonio Spurs at Toyota Center on December 15, 2017 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 15: James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets shoots over Tony Parker #9 of the San Antonio Spurs at Toyota Center on December 15, 2017 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /
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The San Antonio Spurs ended its road trip against the Houston Rockets, which didn’t go according to the plan.

On Friday night, the San Antonio Spurs arrived on national television to face the Houston Rockets. It was the final leg of a three-game road trip, which featured the Spurs defeating the Phoenix Suns  on Saturday and losing to the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday.

When anyone plays the Rockets, expect 3-pointers to be taken early, often and through all 48 minutes. To no surprise, this was the case on Friday night, as the home team dominated from start to finish.

All five players in the starting lineup reached double figures. This included Chris Paul‘s 28 points and a sixth player, Eric Gordon, nearing 20 points.

It started from the beginning, when James Harden had 10 free-throw attempts in the first quarter. He finished with 16 for the game, but his aggressive play contributed to the tempo and opened the floor for his teammates.

https://twitter.com/HoustonRockets/status/941881246698950657

This matchup had all the making of a blowout after the first quarter. The Spurs were down by 15 points, which remained steady for the rest of the game. Keeping it even isn’t a bad thing, except when the other team outscored and left you in an early deficit in the first quarter.

Did it feel even through the game, though? Not quite, as the Spurs turned the ball over nine times around by the second quarter’s midway point. This forced lineup changes that saw Davis Bertans receive extra playing time, who contributed down the stretch in a young and hungry Spurs squad in the fourth quarter.

A group that included Bertans, Brandon Paul, Joffrey Lauvergne, Dejounte Murray and Bryn Forbes cut the lead to 14 points at the 6:27. There was a glimmer of hope … until the Rockets put it away. It was due to Harden’s late-game play (that 3-pointer at the 4:31 mark in the fourth quarter) and Clint Capela‘s aggressiveness vs. a soft interior front.

We see you Bryn! pic.twitter.com/jII68zi9d9

— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) December 16, 2017

https://twitter.com/HoustonRockets/status/941890833170817024

Meanwhile, it’s not a Spurs game recap without a Kawhi Leonard reference. He played his second game since returning from a right quad injury, scoring 12 points on 4-for-9 shooting in 17 minutes. This was one fewer point and one extra minute from his return vs. the Dallas Mavericks. Since Leonard won’t play the second end of the back-to-back, it seems that head coach Gregg Popovich wants to limit his star early and as often as possible.

Game Notes

  • For a game against one of the NBA’s best teams and a Western Conference competitor, this was as bad as the Spurs could have played.
  • Harden shot just 33 percent from the field (2-for-11 from 3-point range) but still had 28 points.
  • It’s somewhat difficult to evaluate this Spurs team against the Rockets, who flashed a conservative version of Leonard and benched the usual starters for most of the game.
  • It was another game that didn’t solve the bench, either. Someone will fall out of the rotation. It’s just a matter of when Leonard starts playing full-time minutes and Kyle Anderson‘s eventual return.

Next: Top 25 players in Spurs history

The Spurs return to the court on Saturday, Dec. 16 at 8:30 p.m. ET. They will host the Mavericks.

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