Houston take out of comfort zone, slowed down in Game 2

Your turn, my turn, imbued the San Antonio Spurs as they blew out the Houston Rockets in Game 2. In 72 hours, the Rockets went from a 26-point win to a 25-point loss.

But how? Houston looked like a sawed-off howitzer just less than two days ago, where they pilloried the Spurs with 50 3-pointers, making 22 of them. James Harden and Co. shot 17 of those attempts early in the shot-clock; 12 of which was put up while the shot-clock had 18, or more, seconds remaining, according to NBA.com/Stats; which means that a decent share of Houston’s long-balls came in transition or semi-transition.

One thing we’ve learned about basketball and the 3-pointer, in particular, is, that it’s not always about how many hits your opponent lands, but how many you allow your opponent to take. The best 3-point defense is to limit your opponent's attempts — especially the easy ones. And that’s what the Spurs did.

In the first half of Game 1, the Rockets launched 27 triples. In Game 2, they finished with 34. Part of that was the Spurs making shots in Game 2, as obvious as it sounds. The Spurs shot 54.5 percent in Game 2 versus 36.9 percent in Game 1, where they missed 53 out of their 84 shots. When San Antonio misses that many shots, they enable the Rockets to get out in transition. The Rockets are averaging a playoff second-best 1.19 points per possession after missed field goals, per inpredictable.com — you know, the type of possession that San Antonio gave them 53 of in Game 1?

Canning some shots gave the Spurs more time to stymie Houston’s pace-pushing style, putting a cap on the amount of offense the Rockets could produce. Pau Gasol doing his best Rudy Gobert protection at the rim helped, too. 

Through all of Harden’s hell-bent conducting in Game 1, the Rockets accrued 27 fast-break points. The Spurs limited them to four — yes four — in Game 2.

The Spurs took the second battle, but the war rages on. Look for Houston coach Mike D’Antoni to try and pick up the pace and shot attempts in Game 3. And look for Gregg Popovich to try and stop him.


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