The Rockets posted their lowest score of the season with just 92 points on 36.4 percent shooting from the floor. James Harden had a nice offensive performance with a game-high 43 points, and Trevor Ariza scored 17, but the Spurs had a much more balanced offensive scoring attack with five scorers in double digits, including 26 points each from LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard.
San Antonio started Dejounte Murray in Tony Parker’s place tonight due to injury, and the rookie from Washington played well. He posted a team-high +11 and got the Spurs off on the right track. After Murray went out, the Rockets began to take a lead, and did not trail from the late first to near the end of the second quarter. Four Leonard points with less than a minute in the second quarter gave the Spurs the lead for good.
The Spurs did not play their peak basketball tonight. Twenty turnovers is an alarming statistic, but their defense was polished. They flooded the paint with Aldridge or David Lee and Pau Gasol when someone was driving in. Guys like Jonathan Simmons, Patty Mills, and Leonard kept the three-point line contested, as the Rockets only made twelve of their 39 threes.
It was nowhere near a perfect night for the Spurs, which allowed the Rockets to stay in the game. Houston was able to stay in the thick of things despite not playing their style. The offense was not in the fast tempo it needed to be in, and it showed in the first half, as the team scored only 39 points in the first half. The offense never really got going in the rhythm it needed to be in. James Harden started scoring at a hot pace in the second half after just 13 points in the first half, but it was not enough.
Despite a strong defensive performance in forcing 20 San Antonio turnovers, the Rocket supporting cast struggled majorly. The Rockets bench combined to go 3-19 from the floor with just 10 points, 9 of those coming from Eric Gordon. Ryan Anderson, who came into the game averaging 16 PPG in the series, came up with just 2 points.
Lou Williams was practically nonexistent tonight, and so was Nene, who was taking (and missing) several mid-range jumpers. They were practically unplayable tonight, which is why we saw a spike in playing time Clint Capela (32 minutes) and Trevor Ariza (46 minutes).
If the Rockets are going to want to win this series, the rest of the supporting cast must show up. It can’t be the James Harden show. You can’t win in the playoffs with just Batman, you need the whole Justice League.
Game 4 tips off at 8 PM CT on Sunday on TNT.