Spurs-Rockets Preview


Last week in San Antonio, an overtime loss to the Spurs dropped the Houston Rockets' record to four games below .500.

The Rockets haven't lost since, and a rematch with the Spurs at the Toyota Center on Saturday night could help them move two games above the break-even mark.

This will be the third meeting between these Southwest Division rivals with the home team prevailing each time - a trend that should come as no surprise with these clubs.

Houston (8-7) crushed San Antonio 105-85 in its home opener on Dec. 29, as Kevin Martin had a game-high 25 points and the Spurs were held to a season-low 37.6 percent shooting. The game was much closer in San Antonio on Jan. 11, with Tony Parker scoring 28 points on 12-of-22 shooting in the Spurs' 101-95 overtime victory.

The Rockets have won all five games since with four coming in Houston, where they're 6-1. They're just 2-6 on the road, though, and San Antonio can probably relate to those woes.

The Spurs (10-6) won for the first time in six road games Wednesday in overtime against Orlando. They seemed to have a good shot of picking up another victory two nights later with a home game against Sacramento, but suffered an 88-86 loss - their first in 10 games at the AT&T Center.

Tony Parker had a team-high 24 points Friday, but nobody else scored more than 10, with Tim Duncan, DeJuan Blair and Tiago Splitter all barely reaching double figures. The Spurs led 84-78 with 3:23 remaining before missing their final five shots - including Danny Green's airball of a short runner as time expired.

San Antonio shot 37.8 percent from the floor and missed 20 of 25 shots from beyond the arc. The Spurs have been unable to get much going from the perimeter the last two games, going just 7 of 42 (16.7 percent).

"If it isn't going we're going to have to try to do something else," said Parker, who is averaging 22.0 points and 7.3 assists in the last six games. "Penetrate, get points in the paint, get Timmy going, get DeJuan Blair going."

Houston is also coming off a disappointing offensive effort, needing overtime to beat New Orleans 90-88 on Thursday after squandering a 12-point, fourth-quarter lead. Martin scored 27 of his 32 points in the first half for the Rockets, who shot 3 for 21 from the field in the final period and mustered seven points, matching a team record set three times previously.

"From an offensive standpoint we just had no flow in that second half after having a lot of flow early," coach Kevin McHale said. "We need a little film session and clean up some stuff."

They might be able to get back on track against a San Antonio team that was dreadful defensively in its first five road games - allowing averages of 109.0 points on 53.7 percent shooting - before slowing down the Magic.

The emergence of Samuel Dalembert could also make a difference in the rematch. The 6-foot-11 center had six points and five rebounds in San Antonio last week and was averaging 5.6 points and 5.9 boards in the Rockets' first 10 games. He is since averaging 15.2 points and 12.8 rebounds during Houston's winning streak.

"Sam was always a guy you just worried about on the defensive end," Martin said. "Wow, the last week, I don't know where he ordered that from but it's nice to see. He's playing well and that's a big key to us right now winning five in a row."

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