The Rockets played the San Antonio four times during the regular season, but as they prepare for game one of the Western Conference Semifinals Monday night, Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni says that doesn’t mean he knows what to expect from them and head coach Gregg Popovich.
“I’m sure they’re going to change some things up,” D’Antoni said Saturday. “But unless Pop calls me today and we can work on them, I don’t know exactly what he’s going to do, so we’ll just have to wait and see if it does change up.”
San Antonio won three-of-four from the Rockets during, holding them to 102.8 points per game, more than a dozen points below their season average. James Harden averaged 29.8, 9 rebounds, and close to 12 assists in those, and the Spurs defensive gameplan will revolve around the Rockets star.
“There’s so many things they can do,” D’Antoni said. “They’ll try different guys. Danny Green will probably start on James, if not, doesn’t matter. Bigs will be back, they’ll probably throw a trap in every once in awhile. One of their strengths are they have a lot of veteran guys that can change things up, so I’m sure that’s what they’ll do.”
D’Antoni and Popovich are hardly strangers. When they meet Monday night it will mark the fifth time the two have met in postseason play with Popovich’s team winning 16-of-20 games, which includes a sweep in the first round four years ago. The Spurs’ coach is in search of his sixth championship, so D’Antoni has seen up close what makes him so successful.
“He has a system he trusts and believes in and he’s just really good at what he does,” he said. “He just does a great job of keeping everything simple, but again, at the same time just his personality and the way he coaches is arguably the best.”