Keys To Rockets/Spurs Game 3


Talk about a wild ride. The first two games in the Battle of Texas were decided by a combined 52 points, and each team walked away with a W.

San Antonio battled back to win big in Game 2 after a blowout loss in Game 1 to tie the series but lost former Finals MVP Tony Parker to a ruptured left quadriceps tendon late in the game.

Tonight, San Antonio is going to do something they haven’t had to do in 16 years – start a point guard not named Tony Parker. This will end Parker’s NBA Playoffs record 221 consecutive starts in the postseason, and put the Spurs in an adjustment phase.

With only seven games (at most) to determine a series and two teams’ fates, Game 3 between teams deadlocked in a 1-1 tie is especially important. For either team to win, there are three keys to which they’ll have to focus.

1. The Adjustment Period

The Spurs may be the team coming in off of a victory; but because of the injury to Parker, they will be the ones doing the most adjusting. James Harden had already attributed his team’s loss to missed shots by the time his postgame presser after Game 2 had come around – an oversimplification, perhaps, but he wasn’t wrong.

Harden shot an abysmal 3-17 from the field in Game 2, scoring a career-low as a starter in the NBA Playoffs of 13 points. The Rockets were also outshot by the Spurs by 5% on threes, and 10% on the whole – the Spurs shot a remarkable 54.5% from the field in Game 2.

For the Spurs, figuring out ball-handling roles for their remaining core will be the tricky part. Expect Kawhi Leonard (who has 14 assists and just three turnovers through the first two games) to play with the ball in his hands a lot more in this game. Manu Ginobili has also been efficient with the ball this series, with just one turnover in the first two games.

Patty Mills will get the call to start at the point tonight, but he’ll in all likelihood defer to Leonard fairly often.

2. Role Players

This section could also be called “Players Not Named Harden Or Leonard.”

Games 1 and 2 were the stories of four different teams. There were the fantastically efficient offensive juggernauts, Game 1’s Rockets. They made 22 of 50 attempted three-pointers and shot 46% from the field, with three starters scoring over 20 points.

Clint Capela went 8-10 from the field for 20 points and pulled down 13 boards and Trevor Ariza went 7-14 (5-10 on threes) for a team-high 23 points. Lou Williams and Eric Gordon each shot 50% from the field as well in Game 1. This was the team Houston needs to play with if they want to win the series.

There were the Sloppy Spurs who lost Game 1 miserably. They had 3-10 Danny Green, who was just 2-9 on threes and had four turnovers in the game, and Pau Gasol, who had just six rebounds (two offensive) over 19 minutes, no blocks, and two steals. They also had Jonathon Simmons who was just 4-11 from the field for 11 points. This Spurs team lost the turnover battle with 15 to the Rockets’ 14, and let H-town control the three-point line.

Then, there were the Rockets with no fuel in Game 2 – also known as “Houston, We Have A Problem.” They shot just 32.4% on threes and had zero players score over 18. They had Ariza and Patrick Beverley on a rough night from downtown (the two went a combined 1-9 from beyond the arc). Their version of Lou Will was also just 2-7 from the floor. They did have bright spots though – Capela again only missed two shots, and Ryan Anderson went 7-9 from the field (4-5 on threes) to lead Houston with 18 points.

And finally, there were the spectacular Spurs. This team came with Gasol who are a hearty breakfast and pulled down 13 boards (six offensive) and had four blocked shots. Simmons in Game 2 was an efficient 5-9 from the floor for 14 points. Ginobili even went from one rebound in Game 1 to five in Game 2. LaMarcus Aldridge went 6-14 for 15 after being a non-factor in Game 1. And Green came out a whole new man, 5-7 from the floor with two threes made and just two turnovers.

While each team has had sporadic play from their role players, there are two important stats that will determine this next game, and maybe even the series.

3. Turnovers and Offensive Rebounds

Houston Game 1: seven offensive rebounds and 14 turnovers. W

San Antonio Game 1: 11 offensive rebounds and 15 turnovers. L

Houston Game 2: nine offensive rebounds and 11 turnovers. L

San Antonio Game 2: 15 offensive rebounds and seven turnovers. W

Houston will likely have less offensive rebounds than San Antonio; but if they keep that within five, they can still come away with a win. And San Antonio is a very efficient team; but if Houston can force them into double-digits in turnovers, they should be able to win. The inverse is true of San Antonio, they need to really beat Houston on the offensive glass and keep their turnover numbers low; and if they do, winning should be easy for them.

About Brandon Wentz

Mayor of the borough of Mt. Carbon, Pennsylvania. Disappointed fan of the Phoenix Suns. Humble narcissist. Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/thebighonch

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