Spurs Prove Too Tough For Houston
HOUSTON - Chandler Parsons launched himself into the air, looking to throw down an alley-oop to punctuate a fast break. The pass was right on target, hitting him right in stride on his way toward the hoop. Instead of throwing down an emphatic dunk, however, Parsons lost control of the ball and could only muster a makeshift layup attempt that never came close to falling.
Somehow the simplest of plays had gone awry. Such was the entirety of the Rockets’ Friday night horror show in San Antonio.
Yes, it was that kind of evening for nearly all of Houston’s players save James Harden, as the Spurs put on an offensive clinic en route to running away with a 114-92 victory. San Antonio led start to finish, shot 55 percent and outscored the Rockets in the paint by an astonishing margin of 60-38.
By contrast, Houston hit just 39 percent of its shots from the field and further compounded the problem by turning the ball over 19 times. As a result, the Rockets rapidly ran out of ways to compete with San Antonio’s considerable firepower and were effectively forced to wave the white flag after three quarters while watching the Spurs add to a lead that at one point reached 33.
“I didn’t think we stayed together,” lamented Houston’s acting head coach Kelvin Sampson. “We had some guys struggling making shots. The one thing that we’ve got to get better at and continue to work at is not allowing missed show to affect other parts of your game. I thought our missed shots affected our effort on defense. I didn’t think we defended with much commitment tonight.”
To be sure, the experienced Spurs had something to do with that. San Antonio executed its offense with the sort of precision they’ve used to great effect for the better part of the millennium, repeatedly picking the young Rockets apart with their exquisite passing, ball movement, spacing and unselfish play. The Spurs broke down the Rockets’ defense early and often, with Tony Parker seemingly getting into the lane at will while the rest of his teammates did just as much damage either knocking down wide-open spot-up opportunities or beating Houston down the floor in transition.
The Rockets, meanwhile, hung around for the first two-and-a-half quarters primarily thanks to the offensive genius of James Harden, who finished with a game-high 29 points on 10-16 shooting. Just how reliant were the Rockets on his offensive fireworks? At one point in the second quarter Harden had hit six of his 10 shots from the field while his teammates had combined to shoot 6-30. And it hardly got better from there, as Houston’s starting lineup, Harden excluded, shot a shade below 26 percent for the game.
Given those gruesome numbers, it was somewhat surprising to see the Rockets hang around as long as they did. And after an 8-2 Harden-fueled Houston run helped the Rockets trim their deficit to just 8 points around the midway mark of the third quarter, it seemed somewhat realistic to think the club might be able to rally in the same fashion it did three nights earlier when Houston had climbed out of a 17-point second-half hole to steal a win from the Lakers.
Of course, these Spurs bare little resemblance to that reeling, drama-filled and discombobulated team from La-La land. After a timeout and mini tirade from head coach Gregg Popovich, San Antonio swiftly responded with a 15-0 run to restore order, put the game on ice and prompt Sampson to rest his starters the entire fourth quarter in preparation for Saturday night’s tilt with Dallas at Toyota Center, where a far better effort on the defensive end will be expected, if not demanded.
“We’ve been really, really good all year – even when other teams were making 3s – at protecting the paint,” said Sampson. “That’s where chemistry on defense comes in. I don’t mind teams making contested 3s. Even the shots Duncan was making tonight, those shots don’t kill me – those are long 2s. But Parker blowing up pick-and-rolls, getting into the paint, getting layups – that’s team defense. That shouldn’t happen and that hasn’t happened this year. We’ve kicked teams out of the paint. We’ve stopped the ball and forced them to kick it out and then we’ve gone out and contested shots – that’s how we’ve won a lot of games. And tonight, for whatever reason, we just didn’t do it.”
(On the overall performance throughout the game...)
"Typically at home, especially for young teams when things get tough we tend to pull together. Tonight we had guys struggling to make shots. One thing we have to get better at is not letting missed shots effect the rest of your game. I think our inability to makes shots effected our defense. I just don't think we defended with much commitment tonight."
(On the team not staying together ...)
"We've been really good all year, even with teams making three's. We've been really good at protecting the paint and that's where chemistry on defense comes in. I don't mind teams making contested three's. The shots (Tim) Duncan was making, those shots don't kill me, those long two's. (Tony) Parker blowing up pick-n-rolls, turning the corner getting in the paint and shooting layups; that's team defense that shouldn't happen this year. We've kept teams out of the paint, we've stopped the ball and forced them to dish it out. Then we go up and contest the shot, that's how we've won a lot of games. Teams make those shots at times, but tonight for some reason we just didn't defend."
(On the Spurs having six players double digits...)
"Well, go back to the Miami Heat game. Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, and their big three (Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili) didn't even dress against Miami and they almost beat them, that tells you how deep they are."
(On the match-up between (Omer) Asik and (Tim) Duncan...)
"Asik is playing with a broken nose, I think he is a little bit gun shy. He has broken his nose before and he used to play with the mask, but he doesn't like playing the mask. That was not a typical Omer Asik performance."
Rockets guard Jeremy Lin:
(On taking away options from the Spurs...)
“You’re not really going to take away everything just because something’s going to give. Something has to give. They move the ball, the speed in which they move their offense, and the speed in which they make decisions makes it really hard.”
(On the chemistry of the Spurs’ core unit...)
“That’s what we strive to become. We’ve seen little glimpses of it. You might see it in a great game, half, or a stretch when we play like that. But we’ve got to get to the point where we’re running the system.”
(On the Rockets’ offensive struggles...)
“I think we missed a lot of shots that we normally make to be honest. I think they did a good job of taking away our first option.”
Rockets guard James Harden:
(On the Spurs’ ball movement...)
“They’re a very good team. Especially at home. They did a good job at moving the ball and we knew they were going to pass the ball. It was just a matter of us locking down and trying to stay on one page defensively.”
(On his shooting performance...)
“I just wanted to come out and shoot the basketball. I just need to stay in my mechanics and have confidence to go out there and shoot the ball.”
(On the team’s shooting slump early in the game...)
“I think it started early. Early on our shots didn’t fall. We had a couple of bobbles where we could have had layups and finish it, so they capitalized on it. They made threes and got easy points in the basket.”
Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich:
(What did you take away from tonight’s game…)
“We were able to rest a few guys which is good when you have a back-to-back coming up. I thought we had great pace offensively. I really liked the way they shared and moved the ball. They had some good spots defensively. We weren’t as consistent as we’d like to be but we had really good pace offensively and I got to play a lot of guys. They got good experience tonight.”
(On Spurs’ depth tonight…)
“(Patty Mills and Tiago Splitter) have been playing well for us all year. Nando (De Colo) just started getting a lot of time in the last three or four games. The guys off the bench have done well. Even James Anderson coming in late and understanding our system, but is doing a good job out on the court. All those guys have been good.”
(On Spurs’ strategy coming into tonight of spreading out minutes among players…)
“Every game is different. You don’t know what’s going to happen. It could be a two minute game, you don’t know, and then all those guys wouldn’t have played the same way. It was just fortunate for us that we had a pretty good night. They didn’t knock down three’s like they usually do. They’ll have a better night on Monday when we go back there.”
Spurs forward Tim Duncan:
(On the win against the Houston Rockets…)
“It was a great start to a back-to-back. It was a good win for us. We had good focus, especially early, and just kept putting it on. We learned a bit about ourselves in the first half, made some adjustments, and our guys made shots and got ourselves the lead. It was good to get a lot of guys a lot of time to keep us as fresh as possible for the game tomorrow.”
(On the production from the bench players…)
“They were great all across the board. I thought Nando (De Colo) was really aggressive. I think he is really starting to understand what we want from him. Patty (Mills) was really good too; he shot the ball very well. All around, we are getting 10, 11 or 12 guys out there who are really focused on what they’re doing on the court. They’re making the most of their minutes.”
Spurs guard Gary Neal:
(On the heavy travel early on in the season…)
“Last year, with the lockout, the games kind of came fast. We were either in the gym or sleeping. That’s pretty much the same way how it is on the road. I think we’re 16-4 right now and with the kind of schedule we’ve had and the injuries we’ve had, I think it’s huge. We’ve got to continue to build and continue to try and get better.”
(On their 15-0 run after the Rockets’ 8-0 run…)
“It was important. Coach Pop kind of rattled the cage a little bit with that timeout.”