The Spurs shot 49.4 percent from the floor yet never led. After laying a 27-point mollywhopping on San Antonio in Game 1, Houston dropped Games 2 and 3 due in part to crucial defensive adjustments by the Spurs that threw Houston's potent high-screen game into chaos. It isn't a coincidence that in the two games the Rockets have won in this series the pace has been played at their liking.
The Rockets hit 19 of 43 shots from the 3-point line Sunday, falling three short of the franchise-record 22 they nailed in the series opener. That isn't to say that the Spurs' hopes of moving on simply boil down to more poor shooting efforts for the Rockets - no, that would be a massive disservice to Popovich, Leonard and an entire franchise of championship winners. Game 5 is Tuesday night in San Antonio.
"You have to fight against that (overconfidence) and understand what you're playing for", Pau Gasol said.
Guards Eric Gordon (22 points) and Lou Williams combined for 35 points off the bench for Houston, who received 10 bench points on three-of-19 shooting in Game Three.
If not for an impressive stint off the bench from Jonathon Simmons (17 points, four rebounds and two steals), then it could have been even worse for San Antonio.
Sam Dekker received some playing time with this small unit, and his athleticism could give the Spurs' bigs trouble if they don't play small (which they usually don't like to do). "Offensively, we've just got to get guys involved", star point guard James Harden told reporters.
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"I wish I was that smart that I could figure that out", the Rockets coach said. So far, the victor has won three games by more than 20 points and one by 11 that felt more lopsided.
But before we get to those series, the Warriors will likely close out the Jazz in Game 4 tonight. With Parker out, and Ginobli running on fumes the Spurs are depending heavily on Kawhi Leonard. With Nene on the shelf, the Rockets must now look elsewhere to find the production that he has provided them all of this postseason. All it takes for the Houston offense to get going in one or two three's and before you know it, you're in a 20 point hole which is nearly exactly what happened to the Spurs in game 4. He scored 28 points off the bench while shooting flawless from the floor. And will we see an interior heavy offense from the Silver and Black to counter the Houston three-pointer? It's a shot that can bail a team out when first and second options are taken away by the defense. "That shouldn't take us by surprise", Manu Ginobili said. Seriously, at this point I'd just assume put my hands out wide and not move a muscle if I were Aldridge. Still, it's getting harder to ignore that the Spurs may just be too slow to keep up with the Rockets' pinging perimeter offense for a full 48 minutes. "(He's) one of the leaders of our team.
In game four, Mike D'Antoni was forced to adapt his usual lineup with Nene's absence. "He was giving me problems".
Finally, to start the game, Harden pulled off one of those coast-to-coast baskets that makes Popovich contort his face in terrifying ways. But I'm gonna fight 'em.
When it comes to the National Basketball Association playoffs, it's tough to find anyone who's feeling 100 percent by the time you get to this point.