Despite being separated past just a 200-mile ribbon of I-10, the Texas neighbors have met only iii times in the playoffs and never in one case during Tim Duncan’s long career.

The Rockets won a first-circular mini-series battle when the 2 teams were in the Eastern Briefing. The following season, they had switched to the Western Conference and the Rockets won an epic 7-gamer. The last coming together was 1995, when the Clutch City Rockets of Hakeem Olajuwon took down David Robinson in and the No. one-seeded Spurs in the Western Briefing finals.

This showdown has been in the making since the Rockets went on a twenty-two tear from Dec. 1 through January. 10 to tuck in neatly as the No. iii team in the West behind the front end-running Warriors and Spurs.

The Rockets took downwards Russell Westbrook and the Thunder in the start circular despite James Harden struggling to find his shot and making just 12-for-50 on 3-pointers. They attacked the hoop and played solid quaternary quarter defense.

The Spurs survived a six-game slog confronting the physical Grizzlies.

The Spurs won the regular flavor series three-1, but the wins were by two, two and six points. The Rockets won past two in San Antonio. This promises to be a doozy.

iii quick questions and answers

Who slows down Harden? The short answer is nobody. He averaged nearly a triple-double — 29.eight points, 12.5 assists and ix rebounds — confronting the Spurs this flavour. Danny Green will become the assignment to start, but when the game is on the line in the fourth quarter, Kawhi Leonard, the reigning two-time Defensive Player of the Year, will demand the assignment.

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Can Kawhi Leonard steal the election? Well, all the MVP ballots have been cast, simply the Spurs’ ii-way monster could give a lot of folks voter’s remorse if he tin have down The Beard one circular afterwards the Rockets eliminated Russell Westbrook. The San Antonio system is not made for individual stars to shine, but he’due south likely to do it anyhow.

Who could tip the series? Await for veterans. If 34-year-old veteran Tony Parker can stay healthy and keep pressure on the Houston defense by attacking the basket, he can create open shots for his teammates and brand the Spurs offense tough to deadening downwards. On the other side, 34-year-former Nene has come off the bench all season to exist a bludgeoning inside strength that makes defenses pay on the nights when the 3-pointers aren’t falling. He’s a potential game-changer.

The number to know

57.2 — In regard to the shots they have, the Spurs are the anti-Rockets. In the first round vs. Memphis, San Antonio took just 57.2 percent of its shots from the restricted expanse (26.1 percent) or 3-point range (31.1 per centum), the everyman charge per unit in the playoffs thus far. The shots in between are the to the lowest degree efficient shots on the floor, but the Spurs accept been able to build an strong offense effectually them. In fact, they scored 116.8 points per 100 possessions against Memphis, the highest rate in the first round and 12.3 more the 7th-ranked Grizzlies defense allowed in the regular season. Kawhi Leonard shot 57 percent betwixt the restricted area and the iii-point line, and the Spurs were also above average in regard to turnover rate, complimentary throw rate and offensive rebounding per centum. In the regular flavor, the 18th-ranked Houston defence force immune its opponents to shoot just 38.vi percent in between the restricted area and 3-bespeak range. Simply Gold Land (38.3 percent) was meliorate in that regard. — John Schuhmann

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Making the pick

Every game they played this season came down to the final infinitesimal and was decided by one or two possessions. The Spurs will close out on 3s and brand the Rockets earn their points by going to the basket. Houston is a classic dark horse with a chip on the shoulder and absolutely no fright with and so many offensive weapons. In a close match-upwards get with the defense and the Spurs had the No. 1 rating in the league all flavor. Spurs in 7.

Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. Yous can e-mail him here, find his annal here and follow him on Twitter.

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Source: https://www.nba.com/news/west-conference-semifinals-preview-san-antonio-spurs-vs-houston-rockets