The San Antonio Spurs came out on fire in the first half against the Houston Rockets, but ultimately the good guys could not hold on and lost by a final score of 109-107. The Spurs dropped to 10-16 with the loss, while the win improved the Rockets to 18-9.
Three minutes into the game, a LaMarcus Aldridge three-pointer gave San Antonio a 16-2 lead in Houston. The Silver and Black kept that advantage for the rest of the opening period, as they held a 35-21 lead going into the second.
The offense stayed hot in the second quarter. Bryn Forbes was a perfect 5-for-5 from three-point range in the period as the Spurs grew to their lead to as large as 25 points. For the quarter, the Spurs outscored the Rockets 37-32 to take a 72-53 lead into halftime.
Unfortunately, the second half was a completely different animal for San Antonio. While the defense held up relatively well, the offensive attack got stuck in the mud. After scoring 35 points in the first quarter and 37 points in the second quarter, the Spurs scored only 35 points in the second half — 17 in the third, 18 in the fourth. Most notably, the Spurs hit 2-of-16 three-pointers in the second half after hitting 10-of-17 in the first half.
Despite their inept offensive attack, the Spurs were able to hold on to their lead until the second part of the fourth quarter. In fact, after falling into a four-point hole, the Spurs battled back to grab a one-point lead with 3:24 remaining and it was tied with 2:41 on the clock.
With 22 seconds remaining, Forbes got a wide open corner three-pointer with the Spurs down one — but he missed it. Forbes missed another three with the Spurs down three and ten seconds left in the game. After four straight overtime games, San Antonio couldn’t force this contest into an extra session and instead allowed the Rockets to take home a win despite Houston’s large first half deficit.
All in all, it was a disappointing loss. It was great to see the Spurs play so well in the first two quarters but the collapse was all too predictable. The Spurs aren’t in the position to be happy with moral victories but hopefully we see some more of that basketball they played in the first half. The level of play displayed in the first two quarters was much higher than anything we witnessed in their two previous games against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns.
Spurs at Rockets – Final Grades
Like many players on the team, it was a tale of two halves on the offensive end for LaMarcus Aldridge. In the first half, he had 13 points on 6-for-9 shooting from the field. In the second half, he had six points on 1-for-5 shooting. Despite his uneven offensive production, I was reasonably pleased with Aldridge’s play. Defensively, he was much more active than usual and he did really good work on the boards. He was running the court hard and his effort in pick-and-rolls defensively was particularly commendable. And while his offense dried up in the second half, he gave the Spurs hope with some good plays late in the fourth.
To start the game, DeMar DeRozan was playing really well. He had four quick assists and looked lively on both ends. But it was all downhill from there. In the second quarter, the catalyst for San Antonio’s diminished offensive production was DeRozan suddenly turning things into a one-on-one affair. He was holding the ball way too long and wasn’t doing anything positive with it. After a few whistles didn’t go his way, he started pouting. Not only was his body language bad, he stopped hustling on defense, wasn’t following the gameplan on defense and got tunnel vision on offense. Eventually, Pop decided to bench DeRozan for the game’s final 4:46. On the sidelines, DeRozan’s moping continued and he looked uninterested about what was happening on the court. Needless to say, that’s disappointing coming from one of the leaders of this team.
For long stretches of the first half, Dejounte Murray looked like the best player on the court. On one end of the court, he was 7-for-8 from the floor and was crisply getting the Spurs into their sets. On the other end of the court, he was playing great defense against James Harden. The confidence and swagger that defined the way he played early in the season was back. In the second half, things didn’t go as smoothly. Defensively, I still think he did really well; his defense against Harden was about as good as it gets. Offensively, though, his production sank along with virtually all of his teammates. Despite the unevenness, I thought this was a step in the right direction for Murray. He’s a young point guard still learning the intricacies of the game but it was great to see the flashes of brilliance on display.
Talk about a roller coaster ride. In the first half, Forbes was a perfect 6-for-6 from the floor, all of which were three-pointers. While his defense was highly questionable, his shooting more than made up for his deficiencies on the other end. In the second half, Forbes was an imperfect 0-for-6 from the floor. What remained steady was his poor defense. It’s tough to put a grade on Forbes’ play because his shooting was a big part of why the Spurs were able to grab the 25-point lead, while his cold second half and lack of defense throughout led directly to Houston’s comeback. Net-net, it’s difficult to overlook how much of a drain he is on the defensive end. The Rockets, specifically Russell Westbrook, were going right at him and had repeated success. Unless he’s shooting straight as an arrow, it’s difficult to justify putting Forbes on the hardwood.
Eh, not bad. I thought Trey Lyles offered a lot of good help on Harden in the first half — and was able to give help without fouling, which is notable for a big. He was strong enough on the boards and his running of the court helped out in both directions. His step-back three-pointer to end the first half was smooth and it gave a hint of the natural scoring talent Lyles possesses. Considering he played fewer than five minutes in the second half, it’s difficult to pin much of the blame of the collapse on him.
This was a pretty good game for Derrick White, although it was a bit frustrating that he didn’t turn the dial up a few degrees. He was playing well but when the Spurs needed him most, he didn’t really show the gumption or wherewithal to grab the reins of the offense and guide San Antonio to victory. Then again, that goes along with what we’ve seen from White a lot this year: timidness at times, strong play at other times but overall a lack of confidence to fully spread his wings. Against the Rockets, he shot well from three, did some damage in the lane and made a few good passes. Defensively, I don’t think he was anywhere close to as good as Murray but he was better than anyone else on the perimeter — although that’s not saying a whole lot. White continues to not be too good when defending against penetration and his closeouts to shooters this game were lacking at times as well.
It wasn’t a pretty night at the office for Rudy Gay but the sum of his production was impressive. He hit a couple three-pointers, pulled down a team-high 12 rebounds, authored a couple key buckets and generally played hard. Gay also deserves bonus points for being the one Spur who didn’t fall off a cliff offensively in the second half; Spurs not named Rudy Carlton were a horrific 9-for-39 (23.1%) in the final two quarters. Defensively, Gay was mostly sub par. He had some good moments in the paint but his slow rotations and over-helping led to some open threes for the Rockets.
For as instrumental as Patty Mills was against the Suns, he was equally as disappointing against the Rockets. Defensively, this might have been his worst game. Houston penetrated against him repeatedly and he couldn’t do anything to stop it. He also wasn’t pressuring ball-handlers enough and that led directly to a couple of defensive breakdowns. Offensively, Mills was virtually silent. One basket and one assist in 19 minutes isn’t going to get it done, especially when you’re getting steamrolled on the other end.
With Aldridge playing 38 minutes, Jakob Poeltl was only able to get ten minutes behind him. In his limited time, he was able to make an impact. He played energetic defense, racked up three assists and was battling on the glass. In retrospect, the Spurs would probably have been better off if Poeltl had been allowed to play more minutes.
Lonnie Walker IV
After an injury scare against the Suns that turned out to be a knee contusion, Lonnie Walker IV didn’t miss a game. Against the Rockets, his individual defense was solid, although his team-defense was a little bit shaky at times. While he helped on the boards and helped push the tempo, he didn’t look completely confident when attacking on defense. Was he thinking about his knee? That’d be understandable. That said, Walker only played ten minutes so it’s tough to draw any conclusions.
Playing the 11th man role again this game, Marco Belinelli got ten minutes of playing time. That was long enough to see him miss five shots. A couple of his shots were wide open and would have greatly helped San Antonio avoid the collapse — but no dice. Belinelli is now shooting 32.4% from both the field and three-point land on the season.
The good: Pop played Murray and White together for the final 4:46, an alignment that he has inexplicably shied away from all season. That duo played well so hopefully we see more of it. Benching DeRozan was brazen but also the right thing to do. It’s hard for the Spurs to win when DeRozan is busy being sad on both ends of the court. The bad: Pop riding the Forbes train after his hot first half resulted in a derailing in the second half. Though he was really good to start the game and did well at the end, Aldridge played too many minutes. Shoehorning Belinelli into the rotation is just weird and makes little to no sense — especially when he’s taking minutes away from players like Walker, Murray and White who are more than a one-trick horse who can’t do his trick accurately anymore. After Walker’s explosion in the fourth quarter last time against the Rockets, you’d think we’d see more Walker this time out instead of watching Belinelli brick more jumpers.
Up Next for the Spurs
On Thursday night, the Spurs host the Brooklyn Nets (15-12). The Nets are 7-7 on the road, while the Spurs are 7-7 at home. With five of their next seven games at home, the time is now for San Antonio to get back on track if they wish to make the playoffs for a 23rd consecutive season.