James Harden scored 31 points to go along with 10 rebounds and 7 assists, but he shot just 1-11 from beyond the arc and missed what would have been the go ahead three at the buzzer to seal the Rockets’ doom. In fact, the entire team was ice cold from downtown, shooting a combined 6-38, ending a streak of 27 straight games with at least 10 threes as a team.
The Rockets actually led by 13 with a little over 4 minutes remaining, but as it does too often, the offense collapsed down the stretch and the Spurs went on a 19-4 run that ended in an open three by Patty Mills for the San Antonio victory. Prior to that, the Rockets turned the ball over on back-to-back plays to put the Spurs in position for the Mills shot that won it.
Despite the loss, this was a hard-fought and exciting contest in which the Rockets really impressed with their defense. They forced 19 Spurs turnovers and really cranked up the heat in the third period, in which they held San Antonio to just 19 points on 7-19 shooting. Pat Beverley was once again fantastic, pestering usual Rocket-killer Tony Parker to just 8 points on 3-7 shooting. Bev finished with 4 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals and a block.
The Rockets did miss Clint Capela tonight, as they lacked sufficient rim protection at times, but where it was really noticeable was on the offensive end. Not having Capela to work the pick and roll and there to gobble up Harden lobs for easy buckets took a dimension away from the Houston attack. Without the threat of Capela rolling hard to the rim, the Spurs were able to sit on the Rockets’ shooters, which was partly responsible for the poor Houston shooting from deep.
Nene was effective at times, going for 10 points and 7 boards and had a few eye-popping plays such as this:
And though Montrezl Harrell had a strong game, going for 9 points, 5 rebounds and a steal in 22 minutes, neither of those guys have the above-the-rim game of Capela nor his wingspan to bother opponents in the paint. This could be a recurring theme for as long as Capela is out of the lineup, though it’s important to note that the Rockets beat most teams in the NBA with the way they played tonight. Just not the Spurs.
The Rockets also got 16 points, 6 rebound and 4 steals from Trevor Ariza, who now has at least 3 steals in 5 consecutive games, and they also got 13 points from Eric Gordon and 10 points, 7 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 block from Sam Dekker, who was huge off the bench with several clutch plays.
The Spurs were led by Kawhi Leonard’s 21 points and 5 steals, and they also got 17 points from LaMarcus Aldridge, 13 from Mills and 10 points and 10 rebounds from Pau Gasol.
The Spurs move to 23-5 on the season, while the Rockets fall to 21-8 and will look to rebound tomorrow night when they travel to Phoenix to take on the Suns.