With 1:13 minutes left in the fourth quarter Monday in Houston, the San Antonio Spurs found themselves down 98-94 to the Rockets with a lineup of Cory Joseph, Marco Belinelli, Damion James, Boris Diaw, and Jeff Ayres closing out the game. Meanwhile, Houston needed their starting group of Patrick Beverley, James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Terrence Jones, and Dwight Howard to close out and take down the feisty Spurs reserves 104-98.
Before the ball was even tipped, the Spurs announced Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Tiago Splitter, and Patty Mills would all miss the game for rest purposes. Tim Duncan (29 minutes), Tony Parker (26 minutes), and Manu Ginobili (22 minutes) would all play just three quarters of the game on Monday, before sitting out the entire final quarter. Here were some observations of the Spurs’ fourth loss of the season to the Rockets.
A Valiant Effort
Despite falling behind by 14 points both in the first half and third quarter, the Spurs’ reserves actually forced the Rockets to play all the way down to the final possessions of the game, as Houston could never sustain its double-digit lead in the second half over San Antonio. At one point in the fourth, minus Parker, Duncan, and Ginobili, the Spurs actually built a 5-point lead. Some positives for the Spurs was their ability to still get a productive effort from multiple players, as seven players scored in double figures, and the team only turned the ball over six times on the night.
Belinelli led the team with 17 points, both Ayres and Duncan scored 12 points apiece, Joseph and Diaw chipped in 11 points each, and Parker and Ginobili both finished with 10 points in their limited minutes. Even after starting James, a player new to the group, the Spurs still assisted on 62% of their made baskets (24 assists on 39 made baskets) and more than half of their shots were uncontested looks (53%), only the team couldn’t connect on most of their looks, as they finished the night shooting 44% from the floor, and San Antonio only made 4 of their 17 three pointers.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Spurs’ defense held James Harden to 16 points on 4-of-16 shooting, but the Rockets still had too much firepower, as Parsons finished with 21 points, both Jones and Howard combined for 40 points, and Beverley scored 12 points. The paint was one area the Rockets had the advantage in throughout the night, as they outscored San Antonio 60-42 in that area. Second chance points were another key area for the Rockets, as they outscored the Spurs 12-4 in that department, as Houston grabbed 12 offensive rebounds. The Spurs’ defense still put forth a productive effort, as they contested 61% of the Rockets’ shots in the game.
Terrence Jones was quite productive when facing the Spurs this season
Though some major core players from the Spurs were resting, there’s been a trend this season when these two teams meet, and that trend is the production of Jones. Jones finished with 20 points (7-of-12 shooting) and 11 rebounds. Of Jones’ 11 rebounds, four were on the offensive glass, where he was able to get the Rockets key extra possessions at points in the game where the Spurs were close to making their comeback.
On the season, Jones is averaging 12.1 points, and 6.9 rebounds per game. In his four matchups against the Spurs this season, Jones is averaging 18.0 points, 12.5 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 1.0 blocks, on 54% shooting.
Eighth seed update
The Memphis Grizzlies eliminated the Phoenix Suns from playoff contention Monday evening with a 97-91 victory. The Grizzlies (49-32) will host the Dallas Mavericks (49-32) Wednesday, in what will be a showdown for the seventh and eight spots in the Western Conference. The winner will earn the seventh spot and play either the Oklahoma City Thunder or Los Angeles Clippers in the first round, while the loser will have to play the Spurs in the first round.
Where San Antonio Stands
- Regular Season: 62-19
- Road Record: 30-11
- Vs. Opponents with +.500 records: 31-17
- Vs. The Western Conference: 38-13
- Post All-Star Break Record: 24-4
(All Stats and player tracking data via NBA.com/stats)