We all expected the Spurs to come out with some serious fire tonight, and that’s exactly what happened. The Rockets just couldn’t match San Antonio’s fight and the Spurs blew open a relatively close game with a big fourth quarter to down the Rockets 121-96.
Kawhi Leonard was in top form, and he thoroughly outplayed a sluggish James Harden. Leonard finished with 34 points, 7 rebounds and 8 assists on a sparkling 13-16 from the field to lead the Spurs to a 1-1 tie with the Rockets in their second-round series.
The Beard meanwhile, slogged through a 3-17 shooting night in which he appeared to re-aggravate his previously injured ankle at one point. Harden finished with just 13 points, 10 assists and 7 rebounds, and one game after blitzing the Spurs by 27 points, the Rockets lose by 25.
The Spurs were better across the board tonight, ramping up their defensive intensity in holding the Rockets to 43 percent shooting, 11-34 from three, and just 96 total points. They also outrebounded Houston (47-32), had more points in the paint (54-44), and also more fast-break points (20-13), showing the Spurs won the hustle battle as well.
This was a vintage San Antonio bounce-back game that featured the crisp ball movement the Spurs are known for. They assisted on 27 of their 48 team field goals.
It wasn’t all roses for the Spurs, however, as they lost Tony Parker in the second half to what appears to be a serious knee injury. He had to be carried off the court, and it appears he could miss some significant time.
The Rockets were led by Ryan Anderson’s 18 points and 8 rebounds, and it was Road Ryno that kept Houston in the contest early with Harden off. He also appeared to bust up a previous injury, falling hard on his already-taped wrist, though he didn’t miss any time. The Rockets also got 14 points from Clint Capela, 15 from Eric Gordon and 12 from Patrick Beverley.
After trailing for much of the contest, Houston was able to scrape and claw their way to within 3 points in the third quarter, but an 11-0 run by the Spurs started an avalanche the Rockets were unable to stop in the fourth. Houston raised the white flag and pulled their starters with several minutes remaining after things spiraled out of control at the finish.
Despite the loss, the Rockets are still heading back to H-town with a 1-1 series split, and if you told any Rockets fan before the series that they’d be leaving San Antonio with a tie, you take that all day. Now the series really starts on Friday after both teams landed haymakers in the first two contests.
Despite the large final margin on the scoreboard, the Rockets were battling close in this game for three quarters, and managed to keep it tight until the final frame despite The Beard’s less than stellar performance, so there are reasons for optimism even coming off of a loss.
The Spurs will also be dealing with the likely loss of Parker and will have to make some serious adjustments in their backcourt, while the Rockets need to regroup now that the real Spurs have decided to show up.
Game 3 takes place at the Toyota Center on Friday at 8:30pm central time.