Rockets 107, Spurs 110 - Rockets Run Out of Gas in Game 5

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What a heartbreaking, backbreaking, hard-fought, frustrating, disgusting loss.

After getting off to insanely hot starts, this game slowed to a grinding halt in the second half. By halftime, it looked like this was going to be a shootout. The Rockets got any look they wanted and the Spurs were playing with their usual efficiency. Both teams shot 50% from behind the three-point line in the first half, and the Rockets managed to take a 60-58 lead into the locker room.

Then, the second half happened. And oh man, did that second half happen HARD. James Harden had 23 points, eight rebounds, and five assists at halftime, and was facilitating an extremely effective offense. Credit to the Spurs defense for taking the ball out of his hands in the third quarter, but he still managed to find teammates is great positions to make plays. The Rockets actually built a nine-point lead midway through the third, but the Spurs battled back and Danny Green gave them the lead with a buzzer-beating three.

The fourth quarter saw the Spurs miss 13 straight field goals, but the Rockets couldn’t capitalize and build a lead – despite getting ANY SHOT THEY WANTED. Then, in crunch time (the last two minutes or so), Houston’s offense totally fell apart. After Eric Gordon hit his only three of the game, the Rockets just held the ball. They didn’t run any offense, and Harden jacked up some really bad three-point attempts – allowing the Spurs to get back into the game and, eventually, tie it.

Overtime saw more of the same, but in even more depressing fashion. Both teams were scoreless for the first three minutes of the extra period, with Patrick Beverley (I mean, who else?) hit a corner three to give the Rockets a 104-101 lead. Danny Green scored San Antonio’s final seven points, including a demoralizing and-one. The Rockets couldn’t get a shot off on a couple of possessions in the end, with 39-year-old Manu Ginobili stuffing Harden’s final three-point attempt.

The big story in this game revolves around James Harden’s disappearing act in the second half and overtime, and, perhaps more consequential, Kawhi Leonard’s injured ankle. Leonard rolled his left ankle after landing on Harden’s foot, and was held out of the late stages of the game – including the closing moments of the fourth and the overtime period.

After having a brilliant first half...


Oh no, this is not something we need in the Playoffs. The dark game ball is not merciful and does not care about your triple-double. The dark game ball wants you to suffer, and Harden definitely suffered in the final 29 minutes of the game. He held the ball, jacked up terrible shots, and turned the ball over and over again.

The Rockets suffered from dead legs, and that’s probably mostly due to Mike D’Antoni’s seven-man rotation. Four players – Harden, Patrick Beverley, Trevor Ariza, and Eric Gordon – played over 40 minutes, while Ryan Anderson and Clint Capela both played over 34. Lou Williams only played 25 minutes, but he wasn’t very effective in his time on the floor. In fact, Lou, Gordon, and Ariza combined for just four made threes on just 21% shooting (Lou missed all five of his attempts). San Antonio’s role players, on the other hand, really stepped up; namely, Green, Ginobili, Johnathan Simmons, and Patty Mills – who all combined for 60 points (and 10 made threes).

The Rockets will try to save their season on Thursday as they head back to Houston with rotation issues to solve, and a lingering Kawhi Leonard ankle injury.

Game Ball 

This is a segment of the game recaps that will give the proverbial game ball to a player that proved to be most valuable to the Rockets on a given night. This award won’t necessarily go to the player that puts up the best numbers, but to the player that made the greatest impact on the team – tangible or intangible.

Tuesday’s game ball goes to Patrick Beverley.

Once again, Patrick Beverley was a huge contributor in the wake of grieving the loss of his grandfather on Sunday. Bev poured in 20 points on 60% shooting (71% from three). In an ugly loss, he exuded his normal heart and hustle – traits that the Rockets will need on Thursday.

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