With the all-time great San Antonio Spurs coming off a humbling beatdown at the hands of the Golden State Warriors and returning home (where they're undefeated this year), nothing was going to stand in their way. It didn't help that the Rockets were undisciplined on defense and ice cold from three-point range, but no one was standing in the Spurs' way tonight, and they beat the Rockets 130-99.
The game actually didn't start off all that bad, with the Rockets leading a fast-paced game 23-22 with about five minutes left in the first quarter, but they couldn't keep pace with the beautiful machine that is the Spurs. They were shut down on offense and couldn't find all the shooters on defense. Every single starter for the Spurs shot over 50 percent, and at times it really looked like they were playing chess against the Rockets' checkers.
Yes, the defense was once again terrible for essentially the entire game, Trevor Ariza came crashing down to earth, Ty Lawson was once again a non-entity on offense (even in extended garbage-time minutes, he still won't shoot the damn ball), etc. etc., but it's hard to be too critical in the face of a Spurs team that was clearly motivated to prove just how dominant they still are after they got spanked in Oakland.
LaMarcus Aldridge in particular looked hungry to prove something after he got absolutely punked by Draymond Green on Monday night, and he had 25 points in 29 minutes. Dwight Howard was on skates against him, constantly being dragged to help on Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard (only Patrick Beverley acquitted himself well on defense on the perimeter) and leaving Aldridge open for dunks on the weak side. The small-ball lineup that worked so well with Howard out didn't have anyone to rotate over for help on Aldridge. Corey Brewer was there once or twice, but LMA dunked right on him.
It was amazing how little energy Houston had after Gregg Popovich went to HackCapela late in the first and early in the second quarter. Capela finished 3-of-10 from the free throw line, the Spurs' lead ballooned, and the Rockets were never in the game again. This year's Rockets give up quicker than any playoff team ever should, I'll say that.
If you'll indulge me for a second, I'd like to talk about what happened in the garbage time that was the fourth quarter for a second. Terrence Jones finished off at least 11 possessions by my count with either free throws or a field goal attempt in the 11 minutes he played to finish off the game. Most of these were straight isolations against set defenses. It seemed like, given playing time that he hasn't seen in days, Jones took the opportunity to brazenly pad his stats in anticipation of either his free agency, a potential trade, or both. But in doing so, he looked like a bigger ballhog than anyone in the league today.
I understand if you don't see too much playing time or touches when the game's in doubt, so when it's already over you want to get your shots up. But T-Jones straight-up refused to pass for minutes at a time, dribbling the ball to death and doing his damnedest James Harden impression (and not a flattering one). I've liked his talent for a while now, but to go on national television and have such open contempt for team basketball was not a good look for him.
So yeah, the Rockets lost by 31 points and got embarrassed on national television, again. Like we've mentioned, it's not the biggest shame to be rocked by these Spurs, but it serves as an important reminder that as much progress as Houston has made recently, they're nowhere near the level of the elites.