The San Antonio Spurs took a commanding 3-2 series lead over the Houston Rockets, rallying late in overtime last night to defeat the Rockets 110-107. Despite All-Pro forward Kawhi Leonard missing the closing moments of the fourth & all of the overtime period due to an ankle injury, San Antonio was able to get key stops down the stretch. None more important than the emphatic block of James Harden’s potential Game-tying basket coming from none other than, 39-year-old, Manu Ginobili in the closing seconds of the Game.
San Antonio, now sits in the driver’s seat in regards to this series. With the series tied at 2-2, the team that wins Game 5, more often than not, goes on to win the series. Houston returns home for Game 6, where they are currently 4-1 in this year’s playoffs. Harden will look to rebound after a particularly underwhelming performance in Game 5 in which he shot just 4-15 from behind the arc, and turned the ball over 9 times, 3 of them in crucial moments in overtime. In fact, Harden recorded more turnovers than the entire Spurs team.
In this series, Harden is averaging 27.4 PPG, 10.2 APG, and 5 RPG, a slight drop from his regular season production where he averaged 29.1 PPG, 11.2 APG, and 8.1 RPG. Although he recorded his first triple double of the series in game 5, Harden was a shell of himself in critical moments, going scoreless in the overtime period, shooting 0-3 on his field goal attempts. At times, it appeared that Harden was overwhelmed with the responsibility of being both the number #1 scoring option and distributor in Mike D’Antoni’s high powered offense.
Looking ahead to Game 6, Kawhi is expected to play despite his injuries, stating after the Spurs Game 5 victory that he will, in fact, play in Game 6. Nenê is of course out for the rest of the season with a thigh injury. After only playing 7 players in Game 6, it will be interesting to see if D’Antoni makes any adjustments to his rotation. Popovich, who is notorious for making Game-saving adjustments seems to have figured out how to defend Houston on the perimeter without fouling on 3-point attempts. Game 6 tips off in Houston, at 8pm Thursday night on ESPN.