When the San Antonio Spurs heard that the Houston Rockets would be without leading scorer James Harden on Tuesday night, they probably assumed the game would end in their favor. They were wrong. The Spurs faltered to the Rockets in a 97-90 loss.
In the absence of Harden, big man Dwight Howard and his 23 points carried the Rockets. The low post defense of the Spurs was a mirage as Howard has his way and added 16 rebounds. One of the most crucial rebounds was in the last minutes of the game in which Howard corralled a missed shot by Aaron Brooks and slammed it home for the 92-88 lead. This is the Spurs’ fourth straight loss to their southwestern conference acquaintances.
Without Kawhi Leonard causing havoc on the defensive end, Terrance Jones of the Rockets had a breakout game with 21 points and nine rebounds. It seems as though the identity of the Spurs’ defense has faded with the recent injuries, and they tend to rely on their offensive prowess. But their slim bench production has cost them two straight losses.
Mani Ginobili led the bench with nine points on 2-of-6 shooting from the field. No other reserve scored in double-figures, and four of those reserves finished with zero points. Gregg Popovich will need consistent offensive support from his bench if he expects to turn their fortune around.
The Spurs are now 1-11 against the top seven teams in winning percentage. They seem to have no defensive stoppers for marque matchups in big games. San Antonio is 32-1 against losing teams, which is likely because they can outscore them. Until the Spurs are 100 percent healthy, their possible home-court advantage for the playoffs is unsafe and unrealistic.