Although James Harden’s 61-point night overwhelmed the San Antonio Spurs, the team showed tremendous willpower in the loss to Houston.
Sometimes star power is all it takes to close out a game in the modern NBA, as evidenced by the San Antonio Spurs’ 111-105 loss to the Houston Rockets on Friday evening. With the odds stacked against them, the Spurs fought hard to keep the game close but failed to contain James Harden in his epic 61-point performance.
Yes, Harden showed off his exquisite flopping abilities throughout the night and got away with some missed calls, but you have to respect the reigning MVP’s ability. Few players are capable of so truly dominating a game on one end of the floor to extent with which Harden does. Sophomore guard Derrick White stepped up to the challenge and put on a strong performance of his own with 18 points, eight rebounds and two steals in 32 minutes.
Next to him on the perimeter was San Antonio’s leading three-point shooter in Bryn Forbes, who really stepped up to the plate and played his hardest in this matchup. Forbes finished the night with a team-high 20 points on 8-for-10 shooting including 3-for-3 on triples. His hustle on defense was crucial in the team’s third quarter rally that allowed them to tie the game up by the end of the third quarter.
There’s no telling what head coach Gregg Popovich had to say at halftime, but it certainly woke his team up from its trance. All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge looked lost in the first half and for most of the night while matched up against Clint Capela. Aldridge finished with only 10 points and four rebounds but managed to make his presence felt in other ways. He blocked a season-high five shots and dished four assists to make up for making just 38.5 percent of his field goal attempts.
Popovich decided to start small forward Rudy Gay over center Jakob Poeltl, whose insertion to the starting five sparked the team’s nine-game winning streak prior to Wednesday’s loss to Miami. It was an off night for Gay, whose calm demeanor and poised decision-making have been crucial to the team’s success this season. He played only 21 minutes due to foul trouble, finishing with seven points, nine boards and three turnovers.
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One night doesn’t determine a player’s worth, but Poeltl seemed very comfortable in his 15 minutes. The Austrian sensation made 4-of-5 shots for eight points, eight rebounds and a steal tonight. Often used as a counter to Nene, one might wonder how the game would’ve changed if he took on the assignment if guarding Capela. This may have opened up the floor for Aldridge, who would then work a size advantage over PJ Tucker.
Rookie swingman Lonnie Walker IV logged seven minutes for Coach Pop tonight and led the team in plus-minus with a +7. He logged four points on three attempts along with a block, rebound, steal and assist. It’s not often that Spurs fans get to watch their rookie get meaningful minutes, so Walker’s insertion to the lineup was a sight for sore eyes.
All things considered, this wasn’t a terrible loss for the Spurs. It’s no secret that Harden has been on a tear lately and San Antonio’s perimeter defense is more than questionable. With that said, Pop still has some tinkering to do with his lineups as the postseason draws near. The chances of the No. 8 seed Spurs falling out of the playoffs is low, as the gap between them and the Sacramento Kings is still a significant six games.
Facing Golden State in the first round for the second season in a row would put San Antonio at a horrible disadvantage, so now is the time to step up to the plate and put this rollercoaster ride of a regular season to rest.