Saturday, October 15
SBC Center- 7:30 p.m.
The Houston Rockets travel to San Antonio Saturday to take on the Spurs at SBC Center starting at 7:30 p.m. The Rockets took home their second straight victory of the preseason Wednesday with an 84-80 win over the Orlando Magic. The Spurs dropped their third straight contest of the preseason Thursday to the Wizards 95-91. San Antonio's 0-3 start seems surprising considering their recent Western Conference dominance, but this is the preseason, and Saturday will provide a preview of two teams that should be playing well into May.
Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming both look in midseason form early for Houston. The duo combined for 39 points against the Magic and looks extremely sharp thus far. Yao is probably in the best shape of his career and is well rested after not competing internationally over the summer. Yao is questionable for Saturday's game with a minor toe injury which is nothing for Rockets fans to worry about. McGrady looks even more comfortable in coach Jeff Van Gundy's offense after a solid year under his belt and is averaging 17.5 points per contest in just 24.5 minutes on the floor.
The Spurs are led by two-time NBA MVP Tim Duncan and dynamic guard Manu Ginobili. Duncan is dominating the glass for San Antonio, pulling down over 10 rebounds a game in just over 19 minutes on the court. Ginobili's play-making ability should only be enhanced by the off-season addition of former Maverick Michael Finley. Finley has been limited to just 16 minutes a game as Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich slowly molds his team into shape.
While Saturday's matchup is merely a warm-up for the regular season, the Rockets would still like to come back with a win as Houston has dropped 15 straight on the road to San Antonio and has never won at SBC Center. Rockets fans can watch the game live on KNWS.
Point Guard: Tony Parker (6.0/1.7/3.3) returns as the Spurs backcourt captain. His sometimes inconsistent play led San Antonio to bring in Nick Van Exel (4.0/1.5/3), who has seen the lions share of minutes thus far, but expect Parker to maintain his starting role when the season gets into full swing. Rafer Alston (6/.5/7), Moochie Norris (9/5/2), and rookie Luther Head (12.5/1.5/3) have all seen action thus far for the Rockets. Luther has impressed his new teammates early on and should continue to get solid minutes on Saturday.
Shooting Guard: Newcomer Derek Anderson (7.5/1/2) and veteran Jon Barry (12/4/1). Barry has displayed a sharp shooting touch, and Anderson has added some athleticism to the position. The Spurs return one of the best at the position in the NBA in Manu Ginobili (10.5/2.5/1.5), who should provide a solid litmus test for the Rockets defense.
Small Forward: Tracy McGrady (17.5/2/2) looks as dominant as ever, but expect him to have his hands full with Spurs defensive specialist Bruce Bowen (1.7/2/.7), who excels at putting the clamps on NBA superstars. Michael Finley (7.0/.5/2.5) will provide depth for the Spurs along with some scoring, which Bowen lacks in his game. The Rockets continue their search for a backup for McGrady.
Power Forward: Tim Duncan (10.7/10.3/1.7) remains the benchmark against which NBA power forwards are measured. Juwan Howard (8/5.5/1) is emerging as the Rockets main option at the four spot as off-season acquisition Stromile Swift has yet to see the floor due to injury. Lonny Baxter (5/6.5/.5) has impressed with his rebounding so far and could provide some quality depth.
Center: Yao Ming (19/5) continues his evaluation as one of the premier centers in the NBA and has added a baby hook shot to his already lethal arsenal. Yao suffered a minor toe injury and may be limited Saturday if he plays at all. Veteran Dikembe Mutombo (1/5.5) provides defense and rebounding normally off the bench but could be called in to start depending on Yao's availability. The Spurs return incumbent starter Nazr Mohammed (5/1/1) along with veterans Rasho Nesterovic (4.7/6/1.7) and Sean Marks (9/3.7/.7), all of whom are undersized compared to Yao and Mutombo.