With two men down, Spurs cruise past Rockets and advance to next round

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Of course the Spurs blew out the Rockets by 39 points, in Houston, playing without Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker, against a hungry team with everything to lose.

Of course second-year journeyman Jonathon Simmons, in the first playoff start of his career, outplayed and outscored MVP candidate James Harden.
Of course the stringy 29th pick in last year’s draft, Dejounte Murray, who spent nearly as much time in Austin as San Antonio during the regular season, looked completely poised while putting up a cool 11 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and two steals.

Of course LaMarcus Aldridge, the source of unrelenting criticism all year long, had his best game of the playoffs, with 34 points and 12 rebounds.
These are the Spurs, led by a guy who’s more alchemist or wizard than basketball coach, and nothing should really surprise us at this point.

The pre-game announcement that they were sitting Leonard had many already making travel arrangements for Game 7 in San Antonio. But an impressive start by the Spurs made those plans seem premature. San Antonio stormed ahead by as many as nine in the first quarter, and only piled it on from there.
For the second game in a row, they kept the tempo to their liking, taking away Houston’s ability to score in the open floor. The Rockets’ gambit to have Harden banging with LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol got him into early foul trouble, and may have been part of the reason why he lacked his usual bounce on offense.

Much of the fault will fall on Harden’s shoulders, as the Rockets leader could only muster 10 points on 2-of-11 shooting to go with six turnovers. Yet, it’s likely even another standout performance from the Beard wouldn’t have been enough – the Spurs were that good last night.

Collectively, the Spurs turned the ball over just seven times while assisting on 32 of their baskets. They shot 53 percent from the field while out-rebounding Houston, 60 to 37. Their defensive rotations were as sharp as they’ve ever been, even without the two-time Defensive Player of the Year on the floor. It was as strong a team performance as we’ve seen from them in these playoffs, and it came at the perfect time.

For the Rockets, this is a disappointing end to what was otherwise an impressive season. They should absolutely head into the summer content with what they got out of the Harden-D’Antoni pairing in year one and look to build on that identity.

For the Spurs, the road only gets tougher, as they head into their next series as 6-to-1 underdogs against a historically great Golden State Warriors team that’s yet to lose in the playoffs. As we know fairly well, though, the Spurs do have a knack for beating the odds.

Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals tips off on Mother’s Day at 2:30pm Central Time.


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