Spurs to set bar for Rockets' playoff intensity - Houston Chronicle
If the Rockets are not quite relieved to know they won't have to face a handful of Nuggets, a selection of Timberwolves or a smattering of Pelicans when the playoffs begin, they will get one last reminder things can be tough even when you see challenges coming.
The Rockets should not have trouble taking the San Antonio Spurs seriously Monday night, as they did with the lottery-bound teams that filled their late-season schedule. That will likely not make things easier than they have been in the rocky finish to the regular season. But the test that awaits them against the league's best team might be valuable to begin the week that will end with the playoffs.
"They're the best team in the NBA," Rockets guard Pat Beverley said. "Phenomenal team, man. We have to be on our toes for them. They're going to come in. They're going to want to win. It's all about being confident going to the playoffs, so it's going to be a battle."
The Rockets are 3-0 against the Spurs this season, but they said sweeping San Antonio for the first time since the 1988-89 season means little compared to their big-picture goals. Avoiding a sweep would likely mean even less to the Spurs, who typically concern themselves only with playing to their standard.
Play the competition
The Rockets might need the game against the Spurs to get back to playing at the level they will need next week. They might even be treated to a regular-season sighting of the Spurs' postseason rotation. Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili sat out Friday's game. Tony Parker played 24 minutes Friday after sitting out with a sprained back. Playing the second-to-last regular-season game, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich could consider the game an opportunity for a final postseason tuneup and play his regulars.
No matter who he plays or for how long, the Spurs ought to be enough to inspire a return of the Rockets' itinerant intensity.
"I always think one of our downfalls is we sometimes play to the level of our competition," Rockets guard Jeremy Lin said. "Hopefully, we come out with a lot of energy and we're a different team come Monday.
"San Antonio is a great team. They're playing really well. It would give us confidence going in. And it could be a second-round matchup."
The Rockets know that to see the Spurs again, they will have to play better than they have been, especially defensively.
Getting Beverley and Dwight Howard back up to speed could be the most obvious step in that direction. In the eight games without Howard and Beverley, the Rockets allowed an average of 115.9 points on 47.2 percent shooting. The 108.8 points per 100 possessions they gave up in those eight games ranked 22nd in the NBA.
The defense was better with them on Saturday, allowing 104 points on 44.3 percent shooting, but that took a 15-0 run to finish the game against a Pelicans team playing without its top seven scorers.
The Rockets' hope to play their best and build momentum for the postseason is running out of time, making the date with the Spurs vital.
"We just got to win," Howard said. "We don't know who the Spurs are going to play, but we've got to get a good win and get ready for the playoffs.
"The first round is not going to be easy. We can't expect whoever we play to just fold and give us the series. We have to be ready, so these last two games are very important."
The Spurs' state-of-the-art balance and ball movement could be about as tough a challenge as the NBA can offer a defense.
Lax defensive effort
Since the Rockets beat the Thunder on April 4, many of their defensive issues have come from a lack of consistent intensity and effort. That should not be a problem at home and against the Spurs.
But on Saturday, coach Kevin McHale said the Rockets were often "discombobulated" defensively, leading to passes to all kinds of open shots.
No team moves the ball to open shots better than the Spurs, the league leaders in 3-point shooting and assists.
"The Spurs, no matter who they play, they play the same way," James Harden said. "They move the basketball at a high level. They are a great team. When you play them, you really have to focus on what you can do to get better.
"They are a really good test for us right before the postseason."
With that in mind, playing to the level of the competition would be a good thing with time running out before they need to play just a bit better.
no, spurs only need to try schemmes and adjustments, and take note of the better for the rockets, and take note to rockets adjustments too, to counter adjust... dont give a hint to their staff for a potential second round match...
“ I’m honored to be on this team right now because he’s going to be great for years to come, and I’m going to hold on as long as I can.” -Tim Duncan on Kawhi Leonard.
You have to hype this game somehow if you want to sell tickets and increase viewer audience during the final regular season week.
For the Rockets, it is time to get your play off rotation in sync after injuries and they are still in a dogfight with Portland for home court.
For the Spurs, it is about being healthy going into the playoffs and fine tuning the Spurs' system execution.
The Rockets are more likely to fill the majority of their minutes with their best players than the Spurs are but I expect Pop to hand out enough minutes to his play off rotation players to keep the rust off.
If things go the Spurs' way it's a plus but if not, there are far more important events on the horizon than a regular season victory over the Rockets.
The Rockets will likely be wound tight while the Spurs will be playing loose.
Last edited by Spurd_On; 04-14-14 at 09:39 AM.
Big Three expected to play against Rockets
Posted on April 14, 2014 at 2:18 pm by Jeff McDonald
After shootaround this morning in Houston, where the Spurs face a Rockets team still clawing for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, Popovich indicated no plans for a mass shutdown of his regulars.
“I want to keep everybody healthy and I want to keep everybody sharp,” Popovich said. “That means you can just sit people and expect them to roll out the first playoff game and be sharp and ready to go. People have to play.”
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