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Houston Rockets vs. San Antonio Spurs game preview

The Rockets and Spurs do battle on Christmas Day for the second time in 3 years.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Before we begin, I'd like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a happy holidays. I hope everyone enjoys today to the fullest.

On to the basketball!

I have my fair share of pet peeves when it comes to the NBA. I consistently find myself asking the same questions over and over again whenever basketball is on the tube. In the holiday spirit of giving, I've decided to share some of those questions with you.

Why do refs wait to see if shots go in before calling fouls? A foul is a foul. The result of the shot should not matter. Yet, it does.

Conversely, why don't players foul guys twice in one play? Say James Harden is driving and gets hacked on the way to the basket and the whistle blows. He's going to try to get continuation. If I'm the guy who fouled him or a center near the basket, I'm going to hit the crap out of him to make sure he doesn't get a shot up. Refs don't call two fouls on plays like that, so take advantage!

I get that he's brilliant, but why are all of Zach Lowe's opinions treated as gospel? If he said that Kendrick Perkins was the best player in the NBA, Twitter and Reddit would fall over themselves trying to agree with him. It's totally true. You can't deny it.

But the biggest pet peeve I have, the one that makes me want to pull my hair out, is this one:

Why does the media always say that we're ignoring the San Antonio Spurs?

ESPN and others always make sure to tell us that no one is looking out for the Spurs. They're flying under the radar (JUST THE WAY THEY WANT IT!) and they're going to "surprise" a lot of people. We've "forgotten" about the Spurs. I call that complete and utter bullshit.

First off, the national media outlets control the stories. If anyone is underreporting the Spurs, it's them!

Secondly, how can anyone possibly forget about the Spurs? They won a title two seasons ago in convincing fashion over LeBron James and the Heat. To be fair, they were terrible the year before and were in the lottery. OH WAIT NO THEY WERE IN THE FINALS THAT YEAR TOO!

The Spurs are REALLY REALLY REALLY good. They have always been good. They will always be good. They have the best coach in NBA history. They have the second-highest point differential through 30 games in NBA history. They hired the first full-time female assistant coach. They are consistently the toughest team to eliminate in the playoffs. And they have the best commercials in the game (we'll get there).

Frankly, it's insulting that anyone thinks that a mature basketball audience is ignoring the best team of the last 20 years. I get that the Spurs don't grab headlines, but that's not their fault. Just because Tim Duncan doesn't bring his children to every game like Steph Curry does or David West doesn't take as much as Draymond Green doesn't make the Spurs uninteresting.

So for the fourth year in the row, this is your annual reminder that I'm not ignoring the Spurs. And neither is anyone else of note. In fact, I'm picking them to win the whole thing.

The next time someone tries to tell you that people are sleeping on the Spurs and that they're flying under the radar, just kick them in the genitals and we can start eradicating this stupid myth once and for all.

I wonder if "Everyone is ignoring the Spurs!" is their version of "Houston, you have a problem." As in, every time they read it they want to break everything.

As always Tony must dominate Fisher.

Go give our brethren at Pounding The Rock a look. They're a great blog with tons of smart fans, even if they are weird and never use the subject line in their comments.

Tip off is at 7pm CST on ESPN.


Point Guard: Patrick Beverley vs. Tony Parker

Parker had a terrible Eurobasket 2015. So bad, in fact, that people were wondering whether or not he was done. He was 33 and coming off his worst statistical season in years as well as posting some truly horrific numbers in the first round playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers. Finally, this "Father Time" that Charles Barkley never shuts up about had shown up and the Spurs' dynasty was beginning to crumble.

(Lee Corso voice) Not so fast!

Parker has had the inevitable resurgence that Rockets fans predicted. He's averaging basically the same statistics as last year, except for a few notable differences. Last season, he posted his lowest shooting percentage in four seasons, his lowest assist-to-turnover ratio in five seasons, and only recorded one double-double in 68 games (his worst total as a pro).

This season, he's shooting 56% from the field (fifth in the league overall and first among non-bigs by a wide margin), 52% from 3, and posting a 3.11 assist-to-turnover ratio. Those are all good for career bests. At age 33.


Advantage: Spurs

Shooting Guard: James Harden vs. Danny Green

Danny Green was a highly sought-after free agent this offseason, and for good reason. The 3-and-D wing is gaining massive importance in today's game and Green happens to be one of the best.

Offensively this season he's posting some of the worst numbers of his career. He's shooting so poorly from 3 that you would think he was a Rocket. But his defense will always keep him involved and he'll take turns with Leonard at trying to slow down James Harden.

Back to the offseason. I figured that Green would be the most likely Spur to jump ship. Kawhi was going to get a max contract and I called LMA-to-SA before it was cool to do so (puts on hipster glasses). I expected Green to get lost in the shuffle and for the Spurs to have to cobble together a shooting guard position.

Plus, I thought Green would get huge offers. After Gordon Hayward and Chandler Parsons took max deals two seasons ago, Green for tons of green (sorry it just happened) seemed a near certainty. Imagine Green on this season's Charlotte Hornets. He could take them from barely making the playoffs to making series noise in the postseason. Plus with Green coming from UNC, I figured Michael Jordan could pry him away from Texas.

I was wrong. Green took a pay cut to keep the Spurs starting lineup the best in the league.

Man I hate the Spurs.

Advantage: Rockets

Small Forward: Trevor Ariza vs. Kawhi Leonard

Coming into the season, I really wondered whether or not we had seen Kawhi's ceiling yet. His exceptional 2014 Finals seemed like the best version of the young stud. He hadn't proven that he could be the focal point of an offense or that he could succeed whenever he didn't have other great players around him.

Then the Spurs won free agency and the season started and I realized I was being stupid.

And so, I'd like to drop an unpopular opinion here and say that Kawhi Leonard is now the second best player in the NBA. LeBron James is still the best, but Leonard is better than everyone else because he defends better than anyone (including LeBron). Curry probably isn't as good if Golden State required him to try on defense. Durant needs to prove he can stay healthy. Anthony Davis isn't there yet. You've heard the tons (and tons) of criticisms about James Harden. Russell Westbrook chases stats.

What makes Leonard so great is his ability to fit into any offensive scheme and impact the game. What's more, he can shut down the opposing team's best player night in and night out (shout-out to Clyde Drexler, who needs to go away).

But if you want numbers, then there's numbers too. Leonard is fourth in PER and he's second in three point percentage (yes, higher than Curry). And he's doing all of this with the same usage rate as J.J. Barea and Trey Burke. Dude can play.

All of that is well and good, until you remember that the Rockets passed up the opportunity to draft Leonard and instead took Marcus Morris. The Spurs pounced at the next pick and traded up to Indiana's spot to take Leonard.

Man, I really hate the Spurs.

Advantage: Spurs

Power Forward: Clint Capela vs. LaMarcus Aldridge

The Spurs were already going to be really good this season. Then they went out and signed the biggest Rocket Killer this side of Voldemort (who is now just Damian Lillard).

I looked it up LMA's stats against the Rockets but every site was wrong. They had him averaging 21 points per game on 48% shooting. That's clearly wrong according to the eye test, so I'll give you the real statistics here.

Points per game: 45

Shooting percentage: 90%

Rebounds per game: 15, including his two misses per game that he then puts back easily

Free throw percentage: 120%

Free throw attempts per game: 20. Seriously, dude gets to the line more than Harden does when we play him.

3-Point Field Goals missed per game: 0

Long 2-pointers with a hand in his face missed per game: 0

Amount of energy exerted on offense against the Rockets: 0% (weird stat but it's true!)

Number of Rockets that have ever had success defending Aldridge: 0

As always, all stats are approximate. Except these are all totally true.

LMA is 0-9 from 3 this season. Is anyone dumb enough to think he won't go 2-2 tonight?

Plus, is there any chance he won't get Clint Capela in foul trouble early?

Seriously, of all the places he could have gone, he went to San Antonio and gave them a new Big 3 for the future in Green, Leonard, and himself. We all hoped that they had been knocked out of the first round and they would fade away.

We were all hopeless dreamers.

The Spurs man. I hate them.

Advantage: Spurs

Center: Dwight Howard vs. Tim Duncan

This is what San Antonio fans think of when they see Dwight Howard.

Tim trolls Dwight

Tim Duncan will be 40 by the time the playoffs are over. And yet, he has 2 more years left on his contract.

Tim Duncan: what is dead may never die.



In case it wasn't obvious, I don't hate the Spurs at all and have a tremendous amount of respect for the franchise. I wish they would hurry up and suck for the first time in my life, but they deserve all the success that they have achieved.

Advantage: Even


Rockets: Jason Terry, Ty LawsonMarcus ThorntonCorey BrewerTerrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas

Spurs: David West, Kyle Anderson, Boris Diaw, Patty Mills, Manu Ginobili, Jonathon Simmons

Whoa whoa whoa! There's a discussion about the bench? Who's writing this preview?

That's right you beautiful people! It's time for a bonus discussion because it's Christmas!

Here, we'll be tackling the always fantastic HEB commercials that they Spurs take part in. Today's spotlight involves Tony Parker teaching the Spurs how to cook.

So much wonderful. I have so many observations.

1. I have heard Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Patty "Party Melt" Mills speak on several occasions. None of their accents are this pronounced. I get that Tony is a chef so his makes sense. But Patty starts normally with "Why is LaMarcus dressed like that?" followed by attempting to fit into a Fosters commercial when he asks if he can use his own knife. Manu doesn't sound as bad as when he asks you to "Take dee plejj" in the NBA Game Time commercial, the man still does not have that much of an accent (proof).

2. Jalapenos are spicy. LMA is prepared. I mean, sometimes I'll be watching a Pixar movie and someone will start cutting invisible onions right under my eyes. I could use a setup like that.

3. Manu asks why the poppers take so long to make. At no point does Parker say how long they will take to make. It could take 10 seconds. Manu doesn't know. Poor continuity here.

4. "Paris was not built in a day." I get that the saying is that Rome wasn't built in a day, but Paris probably wasn't either. Why does Rome get to exclusively have that saying? You tell them Tony!

5. Does Patty Mills carry around his own knife everywhere? No wonder he's so open on the perimeter all the time.

6. Kawhi has big hands. You know what that means. Small oven mitts!

7. Finally, Timmy with the lazy man's answer to the cooking class. Just buy the damn things and heat them up! Once you get older you get more practical. And lazy.

Advantage: Spurs

Prediction: Spurs spoil Christmas for Houston, win by a lot.

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