First things first: if you haven’t read AK’s virtuoso game preview satirizing Bill Simmons, stop this at once and read it. I giggled for maybe 40% of the total time I spent reading it. It is excellent.
Right? So good. Anyway, this game is enormous. The Spurs are five games up on the Rockets, who are five games up on the Jazz. The top seeds in the West are all but decided, but the Rockets and Spurs play each other twice, including tonight, down the stretch run, and you never know how these things go. Win twice, and that’s three games you hope can be made up somehow. Certainly easier than five games with a split. If the Rockets lose both, the two-seed ain’t happening.
I mean, it probably ain’t happening anyway, but you catch my drift.
More important than seeding is a chance to assess this team. The thrashings of the Clippers and Grizzlies were nice, but those are teams that have kind of loped along this seeded, comfortable in the morass of teams below the Rockets in the standings. The words “lope” and “morass” don’t apply to the Spurs unless you’re talking about the way Kawhi Leonard defending you feels.
If the Rockets can show that their offense post-Lou Williams trade is good enough to maintain against the Klaw and his cohorts on the road, we’ve got something here. A win tonight means the Rockets can do no worse than tie their likely second-round matchup in the season series, a not-insignificant point for those keeping track of things like mental edges and intangible confidence differences for playoff series.
If the offense sputters along like it did in that mystifying performance against Indiana, it will be pretty deflating. Sure, this team has a high variance, but consistency is the true distinction between good and great teams. A good performance and a loss would suck, but not be crushing.
But this is the beauty of the Rockets this year. We can hope and come close to expecting better. AK predicted a loss at the end of his magnum opus, as he is required contractually to do. But I think the Rockets have been too good — and the Spurs haven’t exactly been blowing good teams away in their winning streak — to lose this one tonight. I’m going 119-111 Rockets victory.
Finally: you can thank the Spurs’ wacky 7:30 p.m. CT start time for why this isn’t the national TV game. Sorry, non-residents and non-League Pass subscribers! You can just follow the Game Thread if you can’t watch. It’s almost as good.