The twists and turns in the Western Conference playoff series between the San Antonio Spurs and the Houston Rockets are intriguing indeed. Houston came and blew San Antonio off their own home floor in Game 1, as the Spurs looked like they were standing still. San Antonio responded to the embarrassment of having 126 points scored on them at the AT&T Center by turning up the dial on defense and winning the next two games by double digits. Then Houston got its fast-break going once again, scoring a 125-104 triumph at the Toyota Center on Sunday. So we are knotted up at two games apiece, going into Game 5, which begins at 8 PM ET in San Antonio, televised on TNT, and while BetAnySports customers are watching the festivities, they can place wagers on it as it is happening, using the state-of-the-art software available through Live Betting Ultra.
There were seven Rockets in double figures on Sunday, and that’s the kind of thing that makes them very dangerous. So does the fact that they committed only nine turnovers. James Harden, who had been productive offensively but made only nine out of 30 shots over the first two games, has come alive a little bit from the field over the last two contests, hitting 24 out of 46. He hasn’t gotten to the free-throw line as much as he would like to, and that’s one feather in San Antonio’s cap. But the Spurs have to get out to the perimeter and defend much better, as they allowed Houston to go 19-43 from beyond the arc.
San Antonio found itself with something of a dilemma at the point guard position, and Gregg Popovich started the inexperienced Dejounte Murray and left him in there for 20 minutes in Game 5. He had a double-digit negative plus-minus, like all the rest of the San Antonio starters, so you really can’t fault him all that much. But you know that Houston is looking for potential mismatch with whoever he guards.
Houston will face a challenge in this game, as they have to go without Nene Hilario, who was lost for the season with a muscle tear in his left side. He was extremely valuable coming off the bench, as effective big people are in relatively short supply on this team. But for the Rockets, that might present an opportunity, as they can get smaller and quicker and get down the floor faster. When it comes down to it, that’s exactly what head coach Mike D’Antoni wants.
In the BetAnySports odds with which we will make our NBA playoff pick for Tuesday night, the Spurs are favored at home:
San Antonio Spurs -5.5
Houston Rockets +5.5
Over 214.5 points -110
Under 214.5 points -110
It is not inconceivable that Houston could have a lineup that puts Ryan Anderson in the center position, and that would certainly be an interesting one, since everybody in that lineup would have the ability to go out and shoot the three-pointer. Actually, the “micro” lineup has played quite a bit this season, and they been productive offensively. The problem is that they will take a hit on defense. Let’s give you an example – after losing Nene, they eventually went with this grouping for 19 minutes, and registered an Offensive Rating of 122.2, with a Defensive Rating of 135.0.
But that might be D’Antoni’s best choice, and it would certainly be a lineup that could run the break. BetAnySports patrons need to remember that San Antonio would much prefer to slow Houston down and get them into the half-court offense, in which case the Rockets would launch a lot of triples anyway, but the Spurs would be able to keep things much more under control. We are assuming that Kawhi Leonard can put together a better second half than he did in Game 4, when he took just four shots and scored only two points. That is very unlike him, and it might leave some NBA playoff betting observers wondering whether dogging Harden on the defensive end might be taking a little out of him.
At least Popovich did not extend his starters too much, as only Leonard exceeded 26 minutes on the floor (Patty Mills played 28 minutes off the bench as well). Naturally, it would seem that the best defense for a fast-breaking team is good shooting, but look – San Antonio hit 49.4% from the field and still got run a little ragged. With the “need for speed” on Houston’s minds, and San Antonio having played ten of their last 12 games over the total, we are pretty good idea which direction we’re headed in this one.
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