San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets
Date and Time: Thursday, May 11, 2017, 8 p.m. ET
Location: Toyota Center, Houston, TX
Spurs vs. Rockets TV Coverage: ESPN
The Spurs already lost Tony Parker for the playoffs and they played most of the fourth quarter and the entire overtime session without Kawhi Leonard, who injured his ankle in the third quarter of Tuesday’s 110-107 victory. The Spurs are built on depth and that was evident in Game 5. Danny Green enjoyed his finest game, scoring seven of the team’s nine points in overtime and totaling 16 for the game. Manu Ginobili played over 31 minutes, his longest stint of game action all season, and came up big in place of Leonard.
The old man hit 5 of 11 shots and scored 12 points, but his biggest play was denying Harden a game-tying three-point attempt in overtime. Ginobili blocked Harden from behind as the horn sounded to preserve the victory. And that was just one of many defensive highlights for the Spurs. They forced 16 turnovers and held the Rockets to 33.3 percent shooting from behind the arc. The teams were able to cash the over thanks to an additional five minutes, but the Spurs did what they had to on defense, even with their best player on the bench for the extra session.
Harden and the Rockets will deny that fatigue was a factor, but their play in the final 17 minutes makes us wonder. With Nene sidelined, Mike D’Antoni went with a seven-man rotation the whole game. Harden and Eric Gordon played over 43 minutes, Patrick Beverley played 42 and Trevor Ariza was in for 40:25. The Rockets were a combined 7 of 20 and 3 of 14 from distance in the fourth quarter and overtime, scoring a total of 22 points.
Harden had his usual stat line recording a triple-double with 33 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds. But his play in overtime screamed fatigue. The Beard missed all three of his shots and committed three turnovers, failing to take advantage of the Spurs minus their best player and defender. Without Nene the Rockets went with a small lineup, inserting Gordon into the starting rotation. While they were able to handle the size mismatches on defense, it took a toll on the offensive end.
The Spurs have overcome the loss of Parker, but they won’t be able to win without Leonard, who injured his ankle in the third quarter when he landed awkwardly. He remained in the game but was ineffective from that point. Gregg Popovich didn’t even have him on the floor in the overtime period. We’ve seen teams this postseason respond when a player gets hurt during a game. But the next one is always a problem.
Leonard said after Tuesday’s game that he will play on Thursday. But trying to keep pace with the Rockets on a bum ankle will be a chore. The Rockets are who they are and they aren’t going to change their style of play now. That will make trying to defend them difficult for Ginobili, who played in place of Leonard on Tuesday.
Spurs vs. Rockets Free Picks
The Rockets will need one more player off the bench to eat a few minutes on Thursday just so the seven-man lineup can get a blow. Fatigue was a factor in overtime on Tuesday when the Rockets had more turnovers than made baskets. Their small lineup did a respectable job defensively on San Antonio’s bigs, but the effort wore them down. And the additional five minutes of run time didn’t help.
While Tuesday’s game was exciting, it wasn’t particularly well played, and that style suits the Spurs. With Game 6 on their floor and facing elimination, I expect the Rockets to up the ante a bit. They launched 48 triples but made just 33.3 percent of them. That percentage should increase and a few more threes will put the Rockets over the top. Check back for odds at BookMaker.eu and go with the home team to cover this one, especially with Leonard limping.
Spurs vs. Rockets ATS Pick: Give the points with Houston at BookMaker.eu
Spurs vs. Rockets Score Prediction: Rockets 111 – Spurs 105