Spurs Win Game 3 Despite Harden’s 43


Friday’s game was the first time in the series when the Spurs and Rockets were within 25 points of each other at the end of a game: 103-92. Friday’s game was the first Spurs playoff game with neither Tony Parker nor Tim Duncan playing in it since 1997.

Leading the team to victory in the pivotal Game 3 were two of the Spurs’ key franchise players, (of course) Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge. Leonard and Aldridge led the team in scoring with 26 each; Leonard also added 10 rebounds, seven assists, and snagged a steal. Aldridge also played impactful defense, as he finished with seven rebounds and four blocks.

One thing Kawhi didn’t do with cyborg like precision was locking down James Harden, who went off for 43 points (on 14-28 from the field, 5-13 from deep), five assists, and three steals in the loss. Much of the rest of Houston’s team looked out of sync, and only two other players even shot better than 30% from the field – the team as a whole ended the game with a lackluster 36.4% field goal percentage.

Aside from Harden, Trevor Ariza also reached double figures for Houston, finishing with 17 points, five rebounds, assists, and three-pointers. Clint Capela continued his strong series going for 12 points on a highly efficient 6-9 from the field, he also pulled down 16 boards (five offensive), and blocked five shots.

The rest of the Rockets shot an embarrassing 6-36 from the field, 2-14 from long range. Ryan Anderson, Nene, and Lou Williams all went without making a field goal attempt and combined for one point.

San Antonio had an uncharacteristic 21 turnovers – compared to Houston’s 15 – and had less offensive rebounds than Houston for the first time in the series. The Spurs did end up having six more points off of turnovers than the Rockets, despite having six more turnovers than Houston. While I did say that turnovers and offensive rebounds were important stats to look out, I neglected to mention anything about points off turnovers – not that that would’ve solved all of Houston’s problems Friday night.

After scoring 42 and 37 bench points in Games 1 and 2, respectively, the Rockets only managed 10 bench points in their return to Houston. The Spurs started rookie point guard Dejounte Murray -who, at just 20 years old, is the youngest player Gregg Popovich started in a playoff game since 2002 when he started 19 year old Tony Parker at the point.

By starting Murray, this left Patty Mills in his ordinary role of coming off the bench for San Antonio – helping ease into the adjustment of playing without Parker. Mills, by himself, outscored Houston’s bench with 15 points in 30 minutes. Pau Gasol also had himself a respectful outing, scoring 12 points on eight shots, corralling nine boards, dishing out four assists, and getting two blocks.

Everyone on the Spurs who played more than two minutes had at least one turnover; but rookie Murray only had two, in spite of it being his first career playoff start. He also chipped in two points and had a steal in the contest.

Both teams played flawed Friday night and with the experienced head coaches they each have leading them, expect adjustments to be made. For Houston, they’ll be looking to capitalize on any and all San Antonio turnovers in Game 4. San Antonio, on the other hand, will look to prevent as many turnovers as they can without putting super glue on their hands.

One major adjustment the Rockets need to make is scoring from mid-range. They scored just two points that weren’t in the paint, behind the arc, or from the free throw line. Their offense has become too predictable, which is a contributing factor to their shooting an ugly 36.4% from the field and 30.8% from downtown.

Game 4 is a must-win for Houston, and they’re going to have to put a lot of work into their offensive efficiency and taking advantage of turnovers. The Spurs will try to figure out how best to counter James Harden’s offensive outbursts and pinpoint how to duplicate their success keeping Lou Will, Eric Gordon, and the rest of the Rockets three-point arsenal at bay in Game 3.

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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