“They looked like a good defensive team tonight,” said Houston Rockets forward Luis Scola, “I don’t know what has been happening in the other games.”
Scola made these comments after his team was held to 95 points in an overtime loss to the San Antonio Spurs Wednesday night at the AT&T Center, as the Spurs defeated the Rockets 101-95.
After falling to the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday, the Spurs reestablished their defense by adding rookie Kawhi Leonard to the starting line up before the game. Leonard however, had no idea he was starting, “I didn’t know I was starting,” said Leonard after the game.
The rookie not only added his defensive instincts in holding Kevin Martin to 18 points on 7–of-15 shooting, but also by providing key rebounding and hitting a clutch free throw in the overtime period.
“It’s huge for us to have a guy on the team that can do similar things to what Bruce (Bowen) did in the past,” said head Coach Gregg Popovich after the game.
The rookie spent time guarding Martin and Lowry, he attributes his confidence on defense to the past scorer’s he’s already defended early in the season like Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant and Milwaukee’s Stephen Jackson, “Guarding the best players always helps your game evolve,” said Leonard after the game.
The two veteran’s who stepped up and helped the Spurs get the victory were Tony Parker and Tim Duncan. Parker finished with 28 points and eight assists, while Duncan finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Duncan’s most memorable point was his 11th point when he knocked down a free throw in the fourth quarter. With the made free throw, Duncan passed Celtics legend Larry Bird on the all-time scoring list to overtake 27th place. After the game, however, Duncan had no idea what record he had broken, “Oh really, wow. How did I do that?” said Duncan after the game, “Great.”
One of the most consistent Spurs this season has been a player that was almost amnestied, Richard Jefferson. “Richard stepped up and made a huge shot,” said Popovich after the game, as Jefferson knocked down a corner three in overtime with 1:09 remaining to help the Spurs regain the lead 94-92. Parker and Leonard sealed the game the rest of the way as the Spurs closed out the win.
The Spurs will have a much needed day off after most of their starters played over 30 minutes on consecutive nights, Parker in particular, played 45 minutes in the victory. “He’s unbelievable, I know he’s going to be worn out tomorrow,” said Duncan after the game.
When asked if he could play 30-plus minutes Thursday night, Duncan joked, “I think I could, my body might say otherwise.”
The Spurs will indeed use Thursday to rest as they prepare for the Portland Trailblazers to visit San Antonio on Friday. The Spurs move to 7-4 on the season, and stay undefeated at home.
The way the Spurs can know that they’re turning the corner and figuring out their defense is with the last response from their opponent, “They’re a great defensive team,” said Kyle Lowry of the Rockets to close the evening.
Analyzing the Win
- The defense was back. After the Rockets shot 65% in the first quarter, their shooting percentage dipped down quarter by quarter and they ended the game shooting 43% from the floor. The Spurs even held the Rockets to 18 points in the third quarter, and they didn’t give up 30-points at all.
- Luis Scola started hot with 14 points in the first quarter, he only scored six points in the following four periods. Credit Duncan’s defense.
- Danny Green played some big minutes in the fourth quarter, but his main contributions came on the defensive end of the floor. Green had a key block in the fourth quarter.
- The Spurs also took better care of the ball Wednesday as they finished with just 12 turnovers and only sent the Rockets to the foul line six times.
In his first start, Leonard finished with 11 points, the only other Spurs player in double figures aside from Parker and Duncan. Leonard also grabbed eight rebounds, and had two blocks. On several possessions on offense, he was more comfortable in driving and shooting the ball on his own. He said after he’s getting more comfortable on offense and his teammates are being very supportive.
His defense was a key factor on Martin and Lowry. His long arms prevented Rockets players from passing the ball to those two scorers off screens, which hurt a majority of the Rockets offense.