One of a West’s dual loyal juggernauts slipped adult on Christmas, dropping a closely contested diversion to a Rockets group in a midst of a march correction. Houston’s invulnerability led a approach yet it was James Harden (20 points) who powered by a delayed start to strike a span of crucial, contested three-pointers late. The Rockets went on to win, 88–84, in a diversion Friday in that conjunction group found many stroke in a half-court offense.
This valid to be an critical win for a Rockets, who showed their ability to compare adult and corner out one of a best teams in a league. San Antonio has been floating out opponents for weeks, building adult an considerable indicate differential behind a top-three offense and outstanding, league-leading defense. Houston took a plea conduct on by locking adult San Antonio from a start. The Spurs had some successful scoring runs, yet altogether their offense was run aground by an active, invigorated defense.
The Rockets played like themselves again.
Long, jaunty defenders tracked a round during each turn, staying on tip of a play usually adequate to repudiate San Antonio a extra-pass momentum. When a Spurs’ offense bogged down and defaulted into a post, Dwight Howard, Clint Capela, and Terrence Jones battled for position and kept their feet. Trevor Ariza even managed to take a punch out of Kawhi Leonard’s iso sequences, withdrawal a Spurs acid for something—anything—that could put points on a house consistently.
Those frustrations, joined with some uncharacteristically bad decision-making from Tim Duncan and others down a stretch, authorised a Rockets to authority a diversion notwithstanding never unequivocally clicking offensively. History says that a Spurs, prolonged masters of extracting potency from a dogfight, win many games of that type. Friday’s diversion came to a opposite outcome by approach of Houston’s committed efforts.
Naughty: Tony Parker, Spurs. San Antonio doesn’t gaunt on Parker for offense a approach it did even a few seasons ago, yet it still needs some-more of him than he was means to yield in a Christmas showcase. Parker’s dual points on a night were his lowest in any diversion this season. His 14.3% margin idea commission (1-of-7 shooting) was his misfortune of a year. His 3 turnovers in a diversion weren’t accurately crippling, yet those mislaid security usually combined to Parker’s passed weight. It was a severe tour for a Spurs’ mainstay, who isn’t many some-more than a bit actor in San Antonio’s vaunted invulnerability and on this arise couldn’t find many room to minister offensively.
Nice: Dwight Howard, Rockets. Howard was a fourth-leading scorer on his possess group on Friday and a seventh-leading scorer overall. Yet in a diversion in that no singular actor unequivocally thrived on offense, Howard’s work in coverage stood out. Pick-and-rolls were contained and sets upended since Howard loomed vast on so many possessions. Ariza, Patrick Beverley, and Corey Brewer were means to request vigour on a fringe since of Howard’s sneaking presence. Calling him a reserve net isn’t utterly accurate. Howard is a many some-more active member in Houston’s best defensive sequences than many realize, even when he isn’t directly editing a teammate’s mistake or snuffing out an opponent’s shot.
The NBA suggested a jerseys and hosiery to be ragged for a league’s Christmas Day slate.
Style watch: The customary uniform sets of a Rockets and a Spurs tumble within a low ranks of a adequate; conjunction is many of an eyesore, and conjunction is accurately a prophesy of design. With a NBA-wide Christmas Day book changes, however, both come alive. The standard accents on both uniforms—a plain black ribbon down a side of San Antonio’s jerseys, swooping white arcs on a side of Houston’s—work easily alongside a pointed cursive. Kudos to those who designed a intrigue that could work for 10 teams opposite 5 games, all while progressing (and improving upon) a simple pattern elements that differentiated those teams in a initial place.
Biggest takeaway: Houston can still unequivocally urge … when it wants to. The Rockets, confounding as they are, usually sealed adult an chosen group a month after costing their manager his job with their boring defense. Trust in a night-to-night opening during your possess risk, yet Houston still has a components to be a dangerous group whenever it commits to guarding with energy.