Game Preview: Houston Rockets vs San Antonio Spurs

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After an 8 point win over the struggling Washington Wizards, the Houston Rockets are close to coming home, stopping first in San Antonio. The Rockets are coming off of a shaky game that saw terrible first and third, but good second and fourth quarters. After Monday's win the Rockets are 4-3, fourth in offensive rating, 27 in defensive rating, and are 13th in net rating. James Harden continues to lead the team in points (31.6 per game) and assists (12.7 per game), while Clint Capela leads in rebounds, with 7.7 per game in only 23.6 minuets.

The San Antonio Spurs have started the season in convincing style, starting 5-2, after many expected a bit of a drop off following the retirement of Tim Duncan. The Spurs are currently 6th in offensive rating, and 9th in defensive rating, and 4th in net rating, they are also one of only 4 teams to be top ten in both offensive and defensive rating. The Spurs are led in scoring by early MVP candidate, Kawhi Leonard, at 26.4 points per game, in assists by Tony Parker, who averages 4 per game, and in rebounds by LaMarcus Aldridge, at 6.8 rebounds a game.

Starting Lineups

The Rockets changed up their starting lineup on Monday, moving Corey Brewer into the starting role in place of Eric Gordon, in an attempt to add more scoring to lineups with James Harden on the bench, which had an offensive rating of just 80 going into Monday's game. If the Rockets' decide to stay with this new starting lineup expect to see James Harden at point guard, Corey Brewer at shooting guard, Ariza at small forward, Anderson at power forward, and Capela at center, with Eric Gordon likely to continue to see starter's minutes.

After seeing Tim Duncan leave the Spurs had a big whole in the middle which they opted to fill with 36-year-old Pau Gasol, who now starts for them at center. The rest of the starting lineup is made up of Tony Parker at point guard, Kyle Anderson, who is filling in for the injured Danny Green, at shooting guard, Kawhi Leonard at small forward, and LaMarcus Aldridge at power forward.

Three Things to Watch

  • Attack the starters – Despite the team's early success, the Spurs starting lineup has gotten smacked so far this season. The starting lineup of Parker-Anderson-Kawhi-LMA-Pau has a net rating of NEGATIVE THIRTY-ONE - that's disastrously low. It should be interesting to see how the Rockets' starting five is able to take advantage of this failing lineup, and if D'Antoni is able to capitalize on the minutes where the Spurs have that lineup on the floor.

  • Clint in crunch time - It appears D'Antoni does not trust Clint Caplea to close games, which is really a shame. The Rockets' defensive rating with Clint on the floor is 108, but that number swells to 112 when he is on the bench, and the Rockets' rebound rate is slightly better with him on the floor as well. Despite free throw shooting Clint Caplea has been the Rockets' best center by far, so I will be watching to see if, and when D'Antoni believes Capela is ready to close games over Nene.

  • Pick up the pace – Another reason the Rockets decided to move Corey Brewer to the starting lineup was to increase the pace of the game. Unlike what you would expect from a Mike D'Antoni team, the Rockets are only 15th in pace. We should be watching to see if the Rockets continue to try to speed up the game and get closer to the legendary 'seven seconds or less' Suns.

Prediction and Tip-Off

The Spurs in San Antonio is a tough game for anyone, it is especially tough for a team coming off four straight road games. I predict the Rockets will lose, heading back to .500 at 4-4.

Tip-off will be at 8:30 P.M. Central Time in the AT&T Center in San Antonio Texas on Wednesday, November 9th and will be televised on ESPN, with the radio broadcast on Sports Talk 790-AM.

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