It's late December, and your Houston Rockets are winless. Commence panicking.
The Spurs are coming off a blowout last night against the Clippers. This is bad news for the Rockets. No Spur played more than 27 minutes, and they were red hot, shooting 56% from the field, 53% from 3, and they didn't miss a free throw. If the Rockets had their way, the Spurs would have been in a track meet with the Clips and would all be tired tonight. Not so.
Tonight starts the first game of the Rockets' back-to-back-to-back. Tonight, it's the Spurs. Tomorrow it's in Memphis, and then it's back home for the Hawks. The obvious conclusion here is that McHale will go to his bench early and often tonight in order to keep people relatively fresh for the rest of the games. At the same time, he'll be juggling how to maximize what he has on the court to give his team the best chance to win. A difficult task in its own right, and it's further compounded by unfamiliarity with the players. Should be interesting. I wonder if they will have a cutoff point or something similar for these games.
I think in a back-to-back-to-back situation, the realistic goal is to pull out two wins from the three games. But San Antonio, Memphis, and Atlanta aren't pushovers, and 1-2 and 0-3 are probably more likely, especially given the order of the games. We play the slowest team first, then progress to a high-tempo club, which is not the order you want to play these teams. I would be content with 1-2, but definitely think 2-1 is attainable. What do you guys think?
I know that we were relatively split last season after the Rockets drafted Patrick Patterson, but I think even the most ardent supporters of the former Wildcat when he was drafted wouldn't have thought he would be a guy we would be most hurting for early in his second season. There's still no timetable for his return, but his return to practice and full-contact drills is encouraging. Has anyone had bone spurs in their ankles (or anywhere else) and are willing to give insight into the recovery process? I could talk all day about what they are, but that wouldn't be helpful here.
Finally, check out Pounding The Rock, the SB Nation site for the Spurs, and read here the explanation for their name and the mantra of the Spurs franchise in general. Pretty cool stuff, and something I did not know about until yesterday.
Matchups after the jump.
PG: Kyle Lowry vs. Tony Parker:
Two types of point guards have traditionally killed the Rockets. Speedy ones, and bigger ones. That's why Monta Ellis (I know, not a true point guard, but go with it) usually has a field day with us. Parker is of the speedy variety and can break down the defense and get the ball to San Antonio's shooters. It will be Lowry and Dragic's job to stay in front of him and keep him from getting into the lane where he can do his damage. Don't forget, he's got a great floater too and is very smart with the ball.
It's a shame that even if Lowry averages a near triple-double, he still might get passed over for the All-Star Game. It's WAY too early to be talking about it, but in a conference where Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Russell Westbrook, Eric Gordon, and a few others I'm forgetting reside it will tough for him to crack the lineup barring some injuries or down seasons from those guys. But I absolutely saw all-star quality play from him against the Magic. This guy is for real.
SG: Kevin Martin vs. Manu Ginobili:
I just really like this strip:
You know what needs to be the rage this year? Kevin Martin making shots and not making me look like a damn fool. Come on K-Mart. Oh, and you won't get any advantages until you earn them. No complaining mister!
SF: Chase Budinger vs. Richard Jefferson:
Chase better get it together pretty quickly. I get the feeling the McHale likes Terrence Williams, and if he keeps making smart passes he's going to deserve a spot with the first unit.
As for Jefferson, he gets amnestied, then he wasn't (for basketball reasons, I assume). Kind of a weird offseason for him, too.
PF: Luis Scola vs. Tim Duncan:
One has been consistent throughout his entire career. The other has been...equally consistent. Yeah, I'm not making a call here. I like both players too much.
Cop out? Yeah.
C: Jordan Hill vs. DeJuan Blair:
Blair always seems to dominate the Rockets, but I really like what I've seen from Hill so far. Outside of the terrible rotations that Tom mentioned, Hill clearly has worked on his game, and he's way more aggressive on the boards. Eventually, Dalembert might take the starting job from Hill, but I have more confidence in Hill's abilities now than I did last year.
Winning the boards will be pivotal as to who wins the game tonight. Also, the Rockets have to take advantage when the starters for the Spurs sit.
Advantage: Spurs, barely
Spurs: Tiago Splitter, Kawhi Leonard, Matt Bonner, James Anderson, T.J. Ford, Cory Joseph, Daniel Green
Rockets: Goran Dragic, Jonny Flynn, Courtney Lee, Terrence Williams, Marcus Morris, Samuel Dalembert, Hasheem Thabeet, Jeff Adrien/Patrick Patterson
Advantage: Rockets, but it's really close
Spurs: Gary Neal
Rockets: Patrick Patterson?
Prediction: Rockets win 100-95
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