Over the past 10 years they have been two organizations that stand alone in the NBA. The San Antonio Spurs (18 straight seasons with 50 or more wins) and any team LeBron James is on ( 6 Straight NBA Finals). To quote the 1997 movie, Men in Black, “You are looking at the best of the best sir.” The Cavaliers swept the Indiana Pacers in the first round and the Spurs defeated a tough Memphis Grizzlies team in six games. Part 1 of my NBA Playoff Preview is below.
#2 San Antonio Spurs vs. #3 Houston Rockets
This is going to be a classic matchup between two teams trying to impose their will or styles of play. The Rockets want to get up and run, spread the floor, shoot the three and score over 110 points per game. The Spurs are one of the few teams in the NBA who can win in a high scoring game or a defensive battle. The Rockets lost 3 out of 4 to the Spurs this season, it was the 3rd straight year that Houston has posted that record against its interstate rival.
The Rockets have been one of the most explosive offensive teams all season and adding former Lakers guard has really helped them on the offensive end. James Harden has done it all in the post-season so far, he is averaging 33 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds per game. He struggled at times against the Thunder shooting 41% from the field and only 24% from three-point land. He continues to be one of the better player in the league getting to the free throw line. Williams is averaging 18 points off the bench and Center Nene Hilario has contributed 13 points and 6.6 rebounds as a backup.
The Spurs have exceeded expectations, they finished 2nd in the Western Conference with a record of 61-21. Kawhi Leonard was “Michael Jordan like” in the first round against Memphis. Leonard averaged 31 points, 6 rebounds 3.8 assists and 2.0 steals per game. He is shooting 58% from the field 48% from three and 97% from the free throw line. This has got to be one of Gregg Popovich’s best coaching jobs considering he doesn’t have a legitimate number 2 scoring option. Tony Parker found the fountain of youth against the Grizzlies scoring 16 points per game. LaMarcus Aldridge, continues to be a disappointment, scoring 14.7 and grabbing 7 rebounds per contest. Patty Mills, David Lee and Pau Gasol only averaged 22 points combined in the last 6 games.
Contrary to what the media thinks, this is not Harden vs Leonard. This is the Rockets vs the Spurs. If the Spurs offense doesn’t step up this will be a long series. Look for Popovich to play Devins Bertrands for his three-point shooting and Jonathon Simmons to play a lot of defense on Harden. Simmons provides athleticism and size. The good news for the Spurs is they should get wide open looks against the Rockets something they didn’t get against Memphis. This bodes well for SA because they were #1 in the league in 3-point shooting percentage 39.1%. The Cleveland Cavaliers were 2nd and the Golden State Warriors were 3rd. It is not a coincidence that they best shooting three point teams are the favorites to win the NBA Championship. Houston only knows one way to play, outscore opponents, that does not work as you face better competition in the playoffs. The Rockets struggle against teams like the Warriors and Spurs because they have length on defense. Expect Popovich to make game to game adjustments and win this series.
Take the Spurs in 6 games
Coming on Saturday Cavs vs Raptors Preview/Prediction
Follow the Sports Whisperer on Twitter Montetjwitter11
And listen to #TheFullMonte every Monday and Thursday at 6 PM Eastern.