Rockets-Spurs 2nd Round Preview and Predictions

With the Rockets topping the Oklahoma City Thunder in 5 games in Round 1, Round 2 vs. the Spurs looks to be one of the more intriguing series of the entire 2017 NBA Playoffs. Opinions and predictions range far and wide nationally, with a slight lean towards the Spurs.

Just like in Round 1, we at Red Nation Hoops decided to give you our preview and predictions for what should be a very compelling 2nd round matchup.


(2) Spurs Vs. (3) Rockets


Explain your pick.

Salman Ali: This might be the closest, most enjoyable series for the entire playoffs. I realize I'm probably in the minority here, but the Spurs have been the slightly better team all season. Even in the regular season matchups, the Spurs have won by a hair, 3 games to 1. I went back and forth on this, but ultimately went with my gut. The Rockets have a damn good chance if they hit their 3s and exploit the big matchups in pick and roll situations, but I still believe the Spurs are a little bit better.

Jorge Flores: The Spurs are a pretty vulnerable team, outside of Kawhi Leonard's incredible impact on both ends of the floor. James Harden should have no problems carving San Antonio's big men up in the pick-and-roll, and Houston should experience an aggression to the mean in terms of three-point shooting.

Taylor Pate: Rockets in 6 somehow seems to be a consensus with a lot of people. The only way I can justify this is that I'm expecting the Rockets to finally break their cold spell.

Paul Michie-Derrick: The Spurs' experience will come through.

Forrest WalkerI used a random number generator to create a pick from Rockets in 4 to Spurs in 4. It came up Rockets in 5. I have a good reason for this: I have no idea how this series is going to go. Both teams have very good reasons to believe they can easily crush the other, and both have good reasons to think they will lose badly. I can’t get a feel for this series at all, because both these teams seem almost random in how they perform night-to-night. Made sense to me to let probability sort out these two teams and their shooting.

Joshua Lewis: I think that the Rockets will be able to steal Game 1 in San Antonio as a statement game and then take care of business at home. The Rockets will then close out the series at home in Game 6 (I don't expect the Rockets to close it out in San Antonio in Game 5 of Game 7). With the Rockets firing on all cylinders, it'll be tough for San Antonio to stop every weapon that the Rockets have. Of course, Kawhi and Coach Pop will have a plan in store, so the Rockets must be prepared for a counterattack.

Matthew Cardenas: I think the homecourt advantage for the Spurs is what'll be the deciding factor. Kawhi has been on a tear this postseason, and it doesn't seem like he's slowing down. But, the Rockets match up really well with the Spurs. They can easily win the series.

Kyle Chilek: My head says Rockets due to the match ups, but my gut says Spurs, so this was a really tough pick for me. I went Rockets in 6 instead of 7 because if the Rockets are going to win, it won't be in San Antonio for a game 7. If the series goes to 7 it will probably be the Spurs coming out on top.

Trent Arnold: In my opinion Houston is the better team and I expect them to close out at home. The Spurs are the more consistent team, but if Houston can bring and sustain a playoff intensity I feel like they have the higher ceiling. With the Spurs lack of capable defensive PnR bigs, I expect James Harden to have a great series. He averaged 30/9/12 while shooting 47% in four regular season games, so if the Spurs can’t slow down James Harden, they will be playing catch-up in winning the series.

Did we learn anything about the Rockets from the last series?

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Salman Ali: Two things. First, this team validated itself as a legitimate playoff team. The question all season long is "Would this play convert over to the postseason?" and it has. The second is that the Rockets are not as 3-PT dependent as we thought they were. The Rockets shot 28.4% from 3 (worst among playoff teams) and still managed to post a 109.7 Offensive Rating (6th among playoff teams) while winning the series 4-1.

Jorge Flores: We learned that the Rockets are more mentally tough than given credit for. Despite terrible three-point shooting, the Rockets found ways to win and wouldn't let multiple double-digit deficits crush their spirit. This team fights and has a will to win.

Taylor Pate: We learned that the Rockets are capable of winning without making 3's and without Harden being insanely good. That's a huge deal for the role players to know that they're capable of picking up the team during struggles.

Paul Michie-Derrick: We learned the Rockets are still prone to mental lapses, offensively and defensively, and that could prove costly

Forrest Walker: We learned that the Rockets are willing to change their style to suit the opponent. He might not change the starting lineup, but head coach Mike D’antoni will adjust minutes and rotations to suit the needs of the team. They won despite not being able to find or hit the threes they rely on. That issue probably won’t matter in round two, but that flexibility certainly will.

Joshua Lewis: We learned that the Rockets can find other ways to win games. For the most part, the Rockets did not shoot the ball particularly well, leading to several early game deficits. Many of us don't believe that the Rockets can be successful without the three ball falling at a high rate. Luckily, the Rockets were able to grind it out by winning 50/50 balls, feeding the hot man, and attacking the rim at will. With that type of play, the Rockets will give the Spurs a tough time. Pop will have a game plan to shut down James and Rockets 3-pointers, but now we know that this team can deviate from the game plan a little bit.

Matthew Cardenas: We learned that they can win while playing poorly. They didn't play well against the Thunder. They shot poorly from 3 and the offense just wasn't always there. They still found other ways to win and stepped up their defense. But they'll need their shooting to get back on track for this series if they want to win.

Kyle Chilek: If anything was learned in the last series, it's that the Rockets could win ugly. Games 2-5 against the Thunder got really mucked up but the Rockets were able to prevail, despite awful shooting from 3.

Trent Arnold: I think we learned that they are capable of grinding out wins with competent defense and interior scoring. The three ball didn’t score and they beat a decent OKC squad in 5. If Houston can get production from Ariza or Anderson in the next round then it will be tough for the Spurs to slow the Rockets down.

Who or what is the biggest ‘X-Factor’ in this series?

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Salman Ali: Clint Capela. The Spurs have shown in the past that they struggle against springy, athletic bigs like Capela and if he can get going early on in pick and rolls with James Harden, the Rockets dramatically increase their chances of winning the series.

Jorge Flores: Eric Gordon. The Rockets have more firepower offensively than the Spurs, who lack a consistent secondary playmaker. Lou Williams showed an ability to score in bunches against OKC, but Gordon's playmaking (and shooting) will be key as the Spurs focus on slowing Harden down.

Taylor Pate: The biggest X-Factor is going to be Ryan Anderson. He was really, really bad against the Thunder and if he can make 2 or 3 three-pointers a game, the Rockets will be in business.

Paul Michie-Derrick: Eric Gordon needs to shoot well.

Forrest WalkerIf LaMarcus Aldridge sees a Rockets uniform in front of him, he’s likely to go ballistic. Same goes for Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. The X-Factor here is how well the supporting Spurs can play. If those three players go off, it’s San Antonio’s series to lose. If not, that’s a very winnable series for Houston.

Joshua Lewis: Just like the last series, I believe the biggest X-Factor is Ryan Anderson. Fortunately, even though Ryno played abysmally last series, the Rockets were able to win. However, that won't fly against San Antonio. If Ryno isn't able to hit his threes or provide anything defensively, the Spurs will attack this weak spot in the lineup. We're hoping that Ryno can find his range and hit threes on a consistent basis so that the floor open up the floor for James.

Matthew Cardenas: Tony Parker. He had a few flashbacks games against the Grizzlies, and the Spurs are so much harder to beat when he's playing well. It'll be interesting to see if last series wore him out or not. Patrick Beverley will give him fits on the defensive end.

Kyle Chilek: Tony Parker. After looking all but finished the entire regular season, Tony Parker was huge for the Spurs against the Grizzlies. If Parker gives the Rockets another ball handler to worry about through the series, the Rockets defense will be spread a bit too thin.

Trent Arnold: After the first round it probably has to be Nene or Gordon. If the Spurs double team Harden to get the ball out of his hands then the secondary playmakers will be incredibly important. In this instance it will be Nene on the roll or Gordon on the wing. Nene will have to pick apart those 4 on 3 advantages and Gordon will need to make his shots and slice through off-balance defences.

What would you consider the most important statistic in this series and why?

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Salman Ali: 3-PT percentage. The Rockets managed to pull out ahead against an inferior Thunder team without hitting their 3s, but this trend is unlikely to stick against the likes of a superior Spurs team.

Jorge Flores: The most important statistic is pretty clear: three-point percentage. The Rockets managed to get past the Thunder shooting a terrible 28% from beyond the arc. That number needs to go up.

Taylor Pate: The most important statistic is going to be the 3-point percentage for the Rockets. If they are even average from beyond the arc, the Rockets are going to be in every game.

Paul Michie-Derrick: Team 3-PT percentage. if the Rockets get hot this series, they win.

Forrest Walker: The number one stat here is minutes. Specifically, it’s how many minutes Kawhi Leonard spends guarding James Harden. Smarter people than I have brought up that Kawhi tends not to guard the biggest offensive threat during the entire game, so the amount of time he’s able to shoulder that defensive load will likely have a huge impact on what James Harden does.

Joshua Lewis: One of the most important statistics in this series will be bench scoring. As many know, both of these teams have several killers coming of the bench. The Rockets have Eric Gordon, Lou Williams, Nene, and Sam Dekker, while the Spurs have Patty Mills, Pau Gasol, Manu Ginobili, and Jonathan Simmons. It will be a battle of depth.

Matthew Cardenas: 4th Quarter Net RTG. In the OKC series, all of the games for the Rockets were close against them in the regular season. It is the same with the Spurs. Three of the four games were decided by two points. The other game was decided by six. It's going to come down to who can execute best in crunch time and get a stop on the defensive end.

Kyle Chilek: Three point percentage. The Rockets shooting from three was non existent against the Spurs in the season series and in their last series against the Thunder. If the Rockets are unable to knock down their open looks, it will allow the Spurs' stingy defense to hang back and bring more help on drives.

Trent Arnold: Points in the paint. The Spurs rotate well and have done a decent job of making the Rockets take tough shots from three during the regular season. It’s easy to say you need to make your shots, but it’s also important to take advantage of rotations to get better looks. If the Rockets can capitalise on Spurs close outs to score at the rim then it will go a long way into taking the series.

Most important player in this series?

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Salman Ali: Trevor Ariza. James Harden's done a good job against the Spurs all season so there's not much to worry about there. However, Ariza is going to be tasked with the tall order of having to defend Kawhi Leonard for a majority of the minutes he's on the floor. He also desperately needs to make his 3s to keep him viable on the offensive end.

Jorge Flores: James Harden. If the Rockets are going to give themselves a chance to advance to the Western Conference Finals, Harden has to be the best player in the series. Expect monster numbers from the 'Beard'.

Taylor Pate: Kawhi Leonard is the most important player in this series. When Memphis was able to win games against the Spurs, it was because Kawhi was needing to do EVERYTHING for the Spurs. The Spurs are more one-dimensional than they've been in a very long time, and the Rockets can exploit that.

Paul Michie-Derrick: James Harden.

Forrest WalkerThe most important player in this series is James Harden. Russell Westbrook was the only man who could plausibly wrest that from Harden, and he’s in the rearview. Nobody else in the NBA takes over games and runs the entire offense the same way James Harden does. Not even Kawhi Leonard.

Joshua Lewis: James Harden is the most important player in this series, no question. Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green will be hounding him all series long. If James is able to get his teammates involved early to open up things for himself to score later, the Rockets offense will be nearly impossible to stop. There is a thin margin for error for James this series, as the Spurs will immediately take advantage if James shoots the ball poorly or isn't directly involved in the action at all times.

Matthew Cardenas: Clint Capela. He is athletic, unlike the bigs for the Spurs. He needs to be able to take advantage of that throughout the series. He didn't have a great series against the Thunder. This will be a great chance to redeem himself. James Harden and Clint could be a nightmare in the pick and roll.

Kyle Chilek: Clint Capela is going to be the most important Rocket this series. After struggling against the Thunders athletic, strong front court, he will be up against the likes of Pau Gasol and David Lee. Clint needs to be able to take advantage of the athleticism gap between he and the Spurs bigs in order to attack the soft spot in the Spurs defense.

Trent Arnold: The obvious and correct answer is James Harden.

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