Spurs (2) vs Rockets (3)

It’s a Texas Showdown again in the playoffs and this time featuring San Antonio and Houston. James Harden and Kawhi Leonard will feature the star power in this match-up. When looking at the coaching standpoint Mike D’Antoni has not defeated Greg Popovich in a playoff series. D’Antoni is currently 0-4 against the Spurs coach. In the regular season these two teams split the series two a piece with the average margin of victory at three points.

Battle Tested

The Spurs faced a gritty Grizzlies team in their first round series. It took six games to close out the Grizzlies and a game four  overtime loss even with Leonard scoring 43 points. Memphis gave a series of line-ups with the flexibility of Zack Randolph and Marc Gasol playing the front line and defending the paint. Playing along with the slower tempo and grind out defense the Spurs received a better battle than what Oklahoma City gave the Rockets in round one. The style of play will take a bit of turnaround when Houston suits up on Monday night. The Spurs will have to focus on the perimeter shooting in which Popovich will adjust his defense to focus on. The Rockets averaged 40 attempts from behind the arch in the regular season which is a league high. However, they also made a league high 14 threes a game in the season.

While Mike Conley Jr. was a handful the Spurs will face James Harden and shooters around him. Patrick Beverly is part of Harden’s supporting cast will the defensive motor against San Antonio’s back court. This year the Spurs are a bit younger than last season in which they were eliminated by a more athletic Oklahoma City Thunder team.

Battle of the Bigs

While Kawhi Leonard is the clear cut leader of the Spurs they also have a guy by the name of LaMarcus Alridge. His mid-range game and ability to score in the paint will be key. Should the Spurs lock down the perimeter they will need reinforcements in the paint. In game one of the Rockets first-round series against the Thunder they shot 10-of-33 from the three-point line and 62 points in the paint. A Mike D’Antoni team normally could not play big so pending how Pop chooses to match-up the Spurs will have Pau Gasol, Dewayne Dedmon and David Lee to rotate in the front court.

Are the Rockets for real? 

The Spurs will have the accolades and a Hall of Fame coach on their side. Can D’Antoni finally win a series against Pop? The last time an MVP candidate stood in D’Antoni’s corner it was Steve Nash who played the very same point guard position Harden is in. These two teams will have a display of ball movement and two MVP candidates in Harden and Leonard to make this series intriguing to watch. The role players will be the biggest draw in pushing the Rockets over the hump. A collective and consistent effort from Houston’s side will be needed in order to win this series.

Game one is Monday night in San Antonio. Tip-off is at 9:30 on TNT.

Chevall Kanhai
Baseline Times Staff Writer