San Antonio Spurs Need Win Against James Harden-less Houston Rockets

If the San Antonio Spurs want to keep their postseason hopes alive, they need to close out the regular season by winning their final two games. On Tuesday, the Spurs take on the Houston Rockets, a team that is 4-1 in the bubble.

San Antonio did get some good news: James Harden will be held out of the game by the Rockets. Houston has a back-to-back so they’ll sit the former MVP and then suit him up Wednesday against the Indiana Pacers. The Rockets will also be without Eric Gordon.

Unfortunately, the Spurs also got some not-so-good news: Russell Westbrook will play. This former MVP had missed Houston’s previous two games but he’s now healthy enough for the game against the Spurs.

Harden leads the NBA in scoring, averaging a jaw-dropping 34.3 points per game. While the Spurs have to feel lucky to dodge Harden, the Rockets will still be a formidable foe. Westbrook, who averages 27.4 points, 8.0 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game, is perfectly capable of being a number one option.

The Rockets, even without Harden and Gordon, have more than enough talent to beat the Spurs unless San Antonio plays really well.

Derrick White Injury Update

While Harden missing the game is notable from the Rockets perspective, the possibility that Derrick White will miss the game for the Spurs is nearly as big from the Spurs perspective. White injured his knee against the New Orleans Pelicans. He’s currently listed as questionable for the game with a bruised knee.

While White isn’t at the same level as Harden, it’d be very difficult for the Spurs to replace him. He’s handled point guard duties. He’s spaced the floor with his three-point shooting. He’s been a bright spot on the defensive end. Without White, the task of beating the Rockets would be quite a bit more daunting.

Spurs to Match Small Ball Rockets

If you haven’t watched the Rockets in a while, you’ve missed some interesting basketball. San Antonio’s in-state rival doesn’t play any traditional big men in their rotation. None. To say the Rockets use small ball lineups would be an understatement.

Considering the Spurs are starting DeMar DeRozan at power forward these days, matching down to play small against the Rockets won’t be much of an issue. Rudy Gay has been soaking up minutes at center. Against Houston, don’t be surprised if Gay spends more time at center than Jakob Poeltl or Drew Eubanks.

Spurs Playoff Picture

Previously, there appeared to be avenues in which the Spurs could make the play-in tournament even if they split their final two games. That’s now extremely unlikely. In fact, the Portland Trail Blazers and Phoenix Suns are playing so well that it’s possible that the Spurs could win out and that still ends up not being good enough.

For their part, the Spurs don’t need to worry too much about the standings right now. Get a win against the Rockets and they will have life.