This week on TDS Tuesday, we discuss last night’s thrilling victory and look into the rest of the series against the Spurs.
This week’s panelists include first-time panelist Abel Prado (AP), Jeremy Brener (JB), Ethan Rothstein (ER), Xian E (XE), and a special guest panelist from the Spurs’ SB Nation site, Pounding The Rock, Bruno Passos (BP). Thank you for contributing to this week’s TDS Tuesday, Bruno!
Continue these debates in the comments and check out Pounding The Rock for the opponent perspective on the series.
1. What impressed you the most about Game 1?
AP: How quickly during the third quarter the TV cameras started showing empty seats in the stands.
JB: The Rocket defense was more impressive than anything that came out on the offensive end. 126 is a lot of points to score in a game, and a lot of that has to do with their 22 threes, but this was not one of the Rockets’ greatest offensive nights in history. They shot 46%, which is good, but it is not the best the Rockets have done.
Holding the Spurs to under 100, 36% shooting, and everyone with the exception of Kawhi Leonard to 11 points or fewer is impressive. It is the best defense we have seen from the Rockets in the playoffs, which is why this looks more like a complete team than the team we saw in Round 1.
ER: Um, everything? I think mostly it was how tight everything looked on both ends of the floor. The Rockets had five days to prepare and likely spent all of that time studying the Spurs, despite their series not yet being over. They attacked the Spurs, especially their plodding bigs, ruthlessly and devoted all their attention to Kawhi Leonard. Rarely does a Rockets win look so flawlessly executed, especially against the Spurs.
XE: What impressed me most was the energy of the Rockets on both attack and defense. San Antonio wasn’t able to deflate the game and turn it into a punching contest like OKC did. I think San Antonio would like to do that, and maybe they will slow the games down in the end. They won’t be as interested in switching bigs on defense again either, I’m afraid. Also, if this game’s lessons hold true, San Antonio isn’t going to get to use their lineup of useful bigs to their advantage as much.
BP: Clint Capela has generally represented the ideal rim-running complement to Harden, but he was easily the best big man on the floor last night by doing a bit of everything. He ran the floor and made plays in transition, stymied Tony Parker (who had a great series against Memphis) on a shot around the basket and controlled the boards well, even collecting an offensive rebound over both David Lee and Kawhi Leonard. He even made four of his five free throws!
2. Should Sam Dekker get more minutes once he's 100% healthy?
AP: Absolutely, Dekker has seen one of the biggest jumps aside from maybe patrick beverley in the Morey era and arguably has benefited the most from D'Antoni's coaching. We are going to need guys like Dekker to put in more work to get to the finals.
JB: I love Dekker but I’m going to have to disagree. Dekker could find a few minutes here or there, but it is not necessary. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The Rockets have won five of six games with the eight-man rotation they have now, and it is working for them. It’s nice to have Dekker as a contingency plan, but at this point, the Rockets are playing well enough to where they don’t need Dekker (yet). Keep him in the back pocket until the Rockets show signs of struggling.
ER: If those minutes come in blowouts, absolutely! If not, I don't see D'Antoni going away from his eight-man rotation. Barring injury, two of Nene, Capela, Anderson and Ariza will always be on the floor, it seems like, and that's worked so far. Until the Rockets lose more than one game, nothing should change.
XE: Yes, if Dekker can bring his early season form and relentless attacking style, that would be very helpful in getting some rest for both Ariza and Anderson. Six to eight minutes in a contested game would be handy.
BP: If Dekker's healthy, he seems like the type of player that can make an impact against the Spurs. He has the range to be another target on the perimeter against the scrambling San Antonio D, and he runs the floor really well. In other words, please don't play him.
3. How will the Nene-Dedmon feud affect the series?
AP: More like Dewayne DEADMAN! Amiright?! ... /crickets. guess not. Poppa Greg has low tolerance for these kinds of on-court hissy fits and it's likely we have already witnessed the worst of this.
JB: I am all for this. Dewayne Dedmon was put on the floor last night to give the Spurs, who were down by 30, a little bit of energy that his veterans could not provide, and energy he did bring. I think Dedmon wiggled his way into more minutes with his play last night, and him and Nene are going to be a good battle underneath, but anyone who is smart will know never to mess with Nene.
ER: Hopefully not at all. The feud happened after the Rockets had thoroughly punked the Spurs. It was minor and stupid. Dedmon might be suspended for Game 2 for shoving a referee multiple times. Nene should be back. Popovich won't allow his players to screw over the team with technical fouls and non-basketball shenanigans. Rockets players are too smart to get involved in it, too, other than Patrick Beverley, who's so good at it he always comes out on the better end, like in his spat with Dedmon that gave the big man his second technical.
XE: I don’t think I’d call it a Nene-Dedmon feud. I think Dedmon was sent in, or came in, to agitate the Rockets, any Rocket, and succeeded in getting Nene in trouble in the end, though the guy he was really working on was Harden. Dedmon was more or less swinging at anything that moved and I hope the NBA sees that and decided that Nene has already been punished enough. It’s a shame Nene got ejected on account of Dedmon’s tactics, but I’m happy that Beverley managed to troll him out of the game.
BP: The Spurs aren't known for getting into too much extra-curricular activity, so I'd be surprised if another shoving match between the two took place. A smaller thing to keep an eye on is the fate of young Dejounte Murray who allegedly (I haven't gone back to check) left the bench during the skirmish, a big no-no as Mike D'Antoni knows all too well.
4. What changes should we expect from the Spurs for the rest of the series?
AP: I suspect Poppa Greg will crack open his original copy of Dr. Naismith's rules of basketball and devise a plan that includes the most annoying, yet effective scoring tactic we will see. Also, we can’t rule out that Tim Duncan will finally give Pau Gasol a bottle of his Peruvian booster juice that he is stashing away in case Timmy wants to make a comeback in a year or two. (Seriously, don’t rule it out.)
JB: I think the Spurs will put Kawhi to defend James Harden more, and we will see a lot less switching on screens. Getting those switches is what led Houston to a huge Game 1 win against the Thunder and against the Spurs. The Thunder adjusted by switching on Harden less and they were able to keep that offense under control. Spurs should do the same, because if they don’t, they are TOAST.
ER: I think we see Dedmon in the starting lineup soon, if not in Game 2. He has above-average athleticism, something none of Pau Gasol, David Lee or Aldridge have. The Rockets offense so thoroughly torched those bigs that it wouldn't surprise me if Dedmon went from not playing at all in the first half to averaging close to 30 minutes a game. I'm not sure it will work, but it's one of Popovich's only options. Don't be surprised to see even more Kawhi at the 4 (we saw it for a flash in Game 1).
XE: They won’t miss as many bunnies, for one thing. They’ll switch less onto Harden. Aldridge might look less like a zombie, and I think the Spurs will just play better overall. They seemed to be playing at Memphis speed, rather than Rockets speed. I don’t imagine that’ll last.
BP: Popovich needs to change up his big-man rotation, whether that means trying Dewayne Dedmon out over Lee or attempting to go small with someone like Leonard, Davis Bertans or Kyle Anderson at the four.
Whether he does so in Game 2 is a bit unclear. He made a few adjustments midway through the Grizzlies series (including starting Lee), and they looked bad in the first game, only to be vindicated later on.
5. Who was the Game 1 MVP?
AP: Every Cameraman who gave us those beautiful shots of them empty seats when the SA fans realized this game was over... midway through the second quarter.
JB: Dare I say Mike D’Antoni? He outcoached arguably the greatest basketball mind in the NBA and had his team prepared to wipe the Spurs out of their own gym. He never let the Rockets give up their lead, and seeing him get mad at his guys up 30 points is just the kind of coach I like to see. He coaches like he’s down 30 when he’s up 30, and that kind of attitude is key if the Rockets want to contend for a title.
ER: The man who should have won regular season MVP. Clint Capela was a close runner-up.
XE: Game 1 MVP - let’s give it to Ariza. His defense and shooting were a welcome sight.
BP: I won't overthink this and go with Harden. As great as guys like Capela and Trevor Ariza were, their success is an extension of how much Harden is able to bend and break the Spurs defense.