The Houston Rockets don’t have much margin for error down the stretch if they hope to make the playoffs, but at least they have the benefit of playing 11 of their final 16 at the Toyota Center.
Two of those games, however, are against the San Antonio Spurs.
Houston (33-33) has won 11 of 16 since Feb. 2, but remains in 11th place in the Western Conference - the same spot it was when it was 22-28.
The Rockets have at least cut two games off what was a five-game deficit behind the conference’s No. 8 seed, and 10th-place Utah has plummeted since trading Deron Williams(notes). Houston missed a huge chance to overtake another team above them Tuesday, though, falling 113-110 at ninth-place Phoenix.
“It’s a tough loss, a tough loss,” coach Rick Adelman said. “We didn’t guard them well in the second half and they made shots.”
The absence of Scola, the Rockets’ second-leading scorer at 18.5 points per game, certainly didn’t help. The end of Scola’s streak of 311 games played to begin his career might linger, as well. He didn’t practice Friday for the second consecutive day, and is a game-time decision.
A second-round pick of the Spurs in 2002, Scola has averaged 20.0 points and 10.9 rebounds in his last seven games against San Antonio.
San Antonio (53-12) has seen its star backcourt duo come up big in two home wins against Houston. Manu Ginobili(notes) has averaged 25.0 points and Tony Parker(notes) 19.0 with 9.5 assists in the victories, which included a wild 124-121 overtime win Nov. 6.
They did it again Friday, helping the Spurs compensate for the absence of Richard Jefferson(notes). Parker had a game-high 27 points and Ginobili added 24 in a 108-103 victory against visiting Sacramento.
“I thought our ‘Big Three’ pulled it out for us,” coach Gregg Popovich said. They dug down deep. Tony carried us in the third quarter, and then Manu and Timmy. Those three guys were great tonight.”
Jefferson, who missed the game to attend to a personal matter, is expected to play Saturday. Houston wouldn’t mind if he didn’t, considering he’s been just as valuable as Ginobili and Parker, averaging 20.0 points in the series.
Jefferson hit 7 of 8 shots in a 108-95 win over the Rockets on Jan. 29, after which Scola called the Spurs “the best team in the NBA, period.”
If Scola can’t go, Houston could really use a boost from leading scorer Kevin Martin(notes), who’s been held to 16.0 points per game - 6.8 below his average - and shot 33.3 percent in his last four contests.
Martin has averaged 17.0 points against the Spurs this season. If he scores 19 or fewer, the Rockets are 6-15. They’re 26-17 when he goes for 20 or more.
San Antonio concludes a three-game trip next week at Miami and Dallas.