The San Antonio Spurs come to town tonight to try to stop the Rockets’ 10-game winning streak.
Houston will be without Clint Capela, who’s out with a broken fibula. It’s a huge blow to the Rockets team that uses Capela’s ability to run a pick-and-roll with Harden to get into basically all of their actions. Of course this comes just days after Houston released D-Mo. Of course.
Two nights ago, the Spurs retired Tim Duncan’s jersey. Most Rockets fans were stunned by the decision because we expected Duncan to play until he was 50 years old and would be hitting jumpers and gobbling boards against Houston at the same prodigious rate. Now if only Pop would retire the Spurs could go back to being a franchise that doesn’t incite immediate envy. That day will be great for selfish reasons.
Anyway, even the most diehard Rockets fans still probably have a soft-spot for Duncan, specifically because he’s unlike any superstar in memory. You could watch the entire presentation, or you could just watch these highlights.
Oh, and there is a 100% chance that Duncan will come out of retirement to play for the Spurs in the playoffs if a big gets hurt. I’ve been saying it since the summer (I have sources on this!). He just doesn’t want to play a full season again, but he could come back late in the season, use April to get into game shape again, then give the Spurs 10-15 (20 tops) minutes a night in the postseason. You know it’s happening.
Anyway, we should move onto the actual basketball game.
Guys, the San Antonio Spurs are right where they want to be. Everyone is talking about the Rockets. Everyone has already penciled the Cavs and Warriors into the Finals. Blake Griffin’s injury is a big thing. Capela’s too.
But don’t let that distract you from the fact that the Golden State Warriors blew a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals with the first-ever unanimous MVP, a 73-win team, and homecourt advantage.
Wait, wrong thing.
ALSO, DON’T LET THE SPURS GO UNDER THE RADAR! This is what they want! We’re about a week away from Marc Stein’s annual “Everyone has forgotten about the Spurs” column where he just publishes the exact same article as last year and everyone goes “Oh yeah the Spurs! Oh Stein you’re such a brilliant writer!” I implore you to keep mentioning the Spurs. Do not give them the fuel. Do not let them pretend that no one believes in them. Not only is it false, but it’s exactly what Pop and company want. They are going to win the NBA Finals. They are the best NBA team ever. Kawhi Leonard is the MVP! Duncan will play 5 games this year and win Comeback Player of the Year! Just keep repeating these things until everyone is talking about San Antonio.
The Spurs are on a 4-game winning streak where they have dismantled their opponents by an average of 16 points. They’ve been able to use their depth and once again it’s a strength for the silver and black. Besides the signings of Pau Gasol and David Lee, Dewayne Dedmon has been a great addition for them and has shown why Daryl Morey had interest in him during the summer.
LaMarcus Aldridge is still a Rocket killer. And Tony Parker has carved up Patrick Beverley in the past. Pau Gasol has had his fair share of games where he’s given Houston the business. Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard give James Harden problems with their defense and with no Capela to lob to, expect the Spurs to collapse on The Beard even more.
The Rockets will need great shooting nights from every non-big to have a chance. The Rockets will probably get fewer open looks due to the ripple effect of losing Capela, but Houston will have to make shots. On the other end, the Rockets will be run ragged by San Antonio’s passing offense. And maybe the Rockets can hide whomever Kawhi Leonard is guarding in the corner. It seems to work. You know, unless he’s guarding Harden. Then we’re screwed.
One more thing: the game is on NBA TV, so you probably won’t get to hear Sean Elliott tonight. He does the color commentary for the Spurs and he’s the most homer announcer in the NBA. He calls the Spurs “us” and “we.” And you know what? I love it! Now I don’t always think what he’s saying is right, but I’m 100% behind homer announcers and it bothers me when people jump on the Rockets’ group (who totally are homers). Watch almost any decent team and their announcers will get on your nerves. Ralph Lawler makes me barf (OH ME OH MY WHAT A MONSTER INBOUNDS PASS BY BLAKE GRIFFIN!) and Tommy Heinsohn is revered in NBA circles despite actively being an annoying commentator that actually accomplishes the feat of being more pro-Celtics than Bill Simmons. Still, that doesn’t matter. Those are THEIR guys.
Just because NBA League Pass exists doesn’t mean that each team should try to be national broadcasters. They can’t do that. Mike Breen, Jeff van Gundy, and Mark Jackson get to talk to both teams before the game. When you’re a local guy, you follow your squad everywhere. You see their struggles and their successes. It’s impossible not to grow attached to those young men and coaching staffs. When teams are good, I expect announcers to pull for them. After all, narrative has taken over the awards process and now the Rockets basically have to campaign all season to try to win Harden the MVP. So of course the Houston guys will harp on it. Because everyone knows that the MVP is decided well before the season ends (you’re crazy to think otherwise). If I ask you who’s winning Defensive Player of the Year, most people would say Draymond Green. Why? Because he’s already campaigned for it and attached his name to the award. We’re not even two months into the season. The media is so stupid. So is this rant. Sorry.
Anyway, the Spurs are amazing and the Rockets probably need a loss at this point to reset and refocus themselves for the next part of their schedule. You learn more from losing than winning and while Houston will want this game for standings purposes, a loss pretty soon might be better for the team in the long run. Then again, this is uncharted territory for most Rockets fans. Even the 22-game winning streak had the stain of Yao Ming being done for the season so even during that streak you knew it was just temporary smoke and mirrors.
I’ll close with this about Tim Duncan: the man was consistent. Look at the first 12 years of his career and you’ll see it. Heck, he would have stayed that consistent if he kept getting the same minutes even as he got older. But I wanted to think of something as consistent as Duncan to put at the end here. And while a “As always Tony must dominate Fisher” or a suggestion to head over to the great Pounding the Rock (you should definitely check them out) came to mind, I thought that I should find a video displaying something consistent.
I racked my brain trying to think of something consistent on the level of Tim Duncan, and I found something great. There was a show called CSI: Miami. Now, I’m not big into the procedural shows, but when I was in high school my mom and I would watch other CBS shows on Monday nights like How I Met Your Mother and Two and a Half Men (pre-Charlie Sheen meltdown). CSI: Miami came on after those and we always watched the first 5 minutes. Why? Because the main detective, played by David Caruso, always dropped a pun or bad joke right before the theme song (“Won’t Get Fooled Again” by The Who). Seriously, every episode it made you facepalm and chuckle. They were pretty terrible. But you know what? You could depend on them every Monday night. You knew that at 9:05pm Central Time that Horatio Caine would size up a crime scene, put on his sunglasses, and say a one-liner that was stupidly hilarious.
He was consistent.
Just like Tim Duncan.
Tip-off is at 7pm CT on NBA TV.