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Published: Wed, May 03, 2017
Sport | By Dustin Murphy

Rockets' 22 3-pointers dismantle Spurs, 126-99 in Game 1

Rockets' 22 3-pointers dismantle Spurs, 126-99 in Game 1

The San Antonio Spurs lost in eyebrow-raising fashion to the Houston Rockets in Game 1 of the second round on Monday. This matchup is a clash between a young, dynamic Houston offense and an experienced, gritty San Antonio defense. James Harden will finish second in the MVP voting, which is a shame for the incredible season he had.

Harden and company attacked Spurs' brick-footed bigs all night, and there was nothing Popovich could do about it. Before this season, no National Basketball Association team ever had that sort of discrepancy - at least 13 more 3s than 2s - in a game, regular-season or playoffs. The Rockets average 115.2 points per game on offense while giving up 109.3 on defense.

James Harden has no qualms about dipping into either extreme on that spectrum.

The Spurs' 6-foot-7 defensive anchor averaged 28.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists against the Rockets.

Houston led by as many as 39 points. Instead, they got cooked, broken down, and eaten by a ravenous Rockets team without putting up a fight. "But we have to find a way to not let them get going". The Rockets shot 69.6% from the field.

So really, the question going into the series isn't whether the Spurs can handle Harden, but if the Rockets can step up as a team and if Harden can get over the hump and conquer San Antonio's defense.

The days of bad coaching, lack of effort, and tension between teammates seem over in Houston.

The Spurs have the veteran leadership to settle and move past it, to stay coiled, but those same veterans put up no fight vs. the Rockets' assault, either.

The Spurs like to grind down their opponents. Houston (probably) isn't going to shoot as well from three-point range in Game 2, either.

Even the San Antonio Spurs get blown out sometimes.

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Kawhi Leonard: I mean, duh. He was incredibly efficient in the first round, averaging 31.2 points on just 17.3 shots per game, and the small forward remains the NBA's best perimeter defender.

Green and Leonard will likely alternate defending Harden, but neither expects to do so alone.

But Cleveland regrouped and, playing a turnover-free second quarter, led 62-48 at half. However, the team, including Ariza and Anderson (9-20, combined), shot 22 of 50 from downtown and buried the Spurs in a 30 point deficit by halftime under an avalanche of three point shots, 12 of them to be exact. The problem with throwing Kawhi or Green on Harden for a majority of each game is that if Harden gets calls in his favor, it'll be incredibly hard for San Antonio to bounce back into the swing of things when San Antonio's best defenders are in foul trouble. That works out to 57% of Houston's shots coming from deep in the game. "Maybe if there is a timeout sometimes, but they are getting what the offense produces, and James is the producer in the sense that he reads it".

Leonard looks to be the real deal, but his supporting cast is running out of gas.

The Spurs were blown out 129-99, at one point trailing by 39, as the Rockets connected on 22 threes in a blitzkrieg in San Antonio. For reference, he has been getting nearly 15 attempts at the line per game this post-season. And Jonathon Simmons has thrown down some highlight reel dunks. Gregg Popovich and Mike D'Antoni have great mutual respect for one another, but one guy has regularly gotten the better of the other. "But when you get back in transition with the two bigs that's a problem".

Doing so, however, would go against Popovich's usual nature, which is to trust in what his team does and believe things will properly balance out with better execution, as he hinted Monday.

The other three series don't offer the same amount of intrigue as the one that begins in San Antonio Monday night.

Both teams will be laying it all on the line in this Lone Star State rivalry. "I thought they played well in every facet of the game".

With the Spurs escaping the Memphis Grizzlies, they will face off against the Houston Rockets for the first time since 1995. His team played a certain way all season and it worked to the tune of a 61-21 regular season record, now all the sudden his team's style might be its biggest flaw. This series promises to be a real thriller.

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