Expect the intensity to be at a fever pitch on Monday, even more than usual, when the Houston Rockets host the San Antonio Spurs.
Houston lost to Detroit at home 115-107 on Saturday while the Spurs needed overtime to defeat the short-handed Phoenix Suns 121-119 in Mexico City.
That overtime game was the fourth straight for the Spurs, an NBA record that coach Gregg Popovich was none too keen to discuss.
“It’s awful,” he said.
San Antonio guard Patty Mills scored the game-winning basket against Phoenix with 1.7 seconds left and finished with 26 points off the bench to lead all scorers.
The overtime streak began on Dec. 3 with a 135-133 double overtime win against the Rockets in which several controversial calls in regulation led Houston to protest the game. San Antonio has won three of those four games, its most productive stretch since beginning the season 4-1.
“There’s something positive to be said for that,” Mills said of the Spurs’ winning stretch. “It’s a credit to us all hanging in there and executing when we’re all tired. Tonight it was the execution. We haven’t had the greatest of seasons but we’re learning as we go.”
DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge and Dejounte Murray each added 18 for San Antonio in the win over Phoenix, with Lonnie Walker IV pumping in 16 points.
San Antonio has been below the .500 mark for more days this season (32) than it has been in the previous 10 seasons combined (28), but may be finding its stride.
The Rockets will have a bit of a revenge factor on their side on Monday after making several plays in the most recent loss to San Antonio that were not allowed, and after losing the protest even though league officials admitted there were mistakes made by the referees.
But first things first, the Rockets need to get their own ducks in a row.
Houston got 39 points from James Harden, 25 of them in the second half, but that wasn’t enough for the short-handed Rockets against Detroit. Guard Russell Westbrook was given the night off to rest, and center Tyson Chandler missed his fifth straight game with flu-like symptoms.
The Rockets got 17 points off the bench from Chris Clemons and 12 points and 19 rebounds from Clint Capela. Ben McLemore started for Westbrook and scored 13 points.
Most of Harden’s points came in an effort to pull the Rockets back from a 10-point halftime deficit. But the Houston defense proved to be a liability to that cause, a situation Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said was caused by the short bench and playing the second game of a back-to-back.
“I’m hoping that’s a product of tired legs, because we couldn’t stay in front of anybody,” D’Antoni said. “Detroit was fast, and they were shooting well. They played well. We just didn’t have the mental energy to take control of the game and get it over with.”
Houston never got closer than five points in the second half.
“We all know how difficult (the schedule) is,” Harden said. “You’ve just got to continue to fight through it.”
–Field Level Media