The last time the Spurs and Rockets met in the NBA playoffs, the teams played in the Alamodome, Dennis Rodman was still rocking silver and black, and Tim Duncan was a sophomore at Wake Forest. Disgruntled MVP candidate Hakeem Olajuwon decimated David Robinson and the Spurs on the way to back-to-back championships for Clutch City in 1995. Despite twenty consecutive trips to the postseason, San Antonio has never defeated Houston in a playoff series.
After dispatching the Memphis Grizzlies in six games, the Spurs renew the I-10 rivalry with the Rockets in what could be one of the more compelling Western Conference semifinals in recent memory. Led by offensive dynamo James Harden, Houston is fresh from dismantling the one-dimensional Oklahoma City Thunder in five games.
“They’re a very, very good offensive team,” Tony Parker told reporters at practice over the weekend. “A lot of three-point shooters everywhere, so we understand that it starts with our defense and if we don’t stop them it’s going to be a long series for us.”
A resurgent Parker was clutch for the Spurs in closing out the Grizzlies, and his veteran presence will be key as San Antonio attempts to control the tempo against their run-and-gun in state rivals. The one-two scoring combo of Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge should also be critical to keeping pace with the Rockets.
On the defensive end, San Antonio will rely on Leonard and company to contain Harden, whose crunch time heroics tormented Spurs faithful during his tenure with the Thunder. Danny Green and Jonathon Simmons will also be tasked with slowing down one of the craftiest scorers in the game, along with fellow lefty Manu Ginobili, in a series that may easily stretch to seven games.
“Make him take tough shots,” said Ginobilbi referring to Harden’s game. “If he starts making contested and step backs and shots like that, you can’t do much about it. You just can’t give him everything. Three points, paint, fouls, that’s when he’s at his best.”
Spurs Round 2 Broadcast Schedule:
Game 1, Monday, May 1, Spurs vs. Rockets, 8:30 PM, TNT
Game 2, Wednesday, May 3, Spurs vs. Rockets, 8:30 PM, TNT
Game 3, Friday, May 5, Spurs at Rockets, 8:30 PM, ESPN
Game 4, Sunday, May 7, Spurs at Rockets, 8 PM, TNT
Game 5*, Tuesday, May 9, Spurs vs. Rockets, TBD
Game 6*, Thursday, May 11, Spurs at Rockets, TBD
Game 7*, Sunday, May 14, Spurs vs. Rockets, TBD