Houston (CBS HOUSTON) – Well. That escalated quickly.
I’m not talking about the Rockets offense from beyond the arc, Monday night in San Antonio. Though, knocking down 22 of their 50 3-point attempts was nothing short of impressive, especially given the fact that their perimeter shooting hovered consistently around 30% through their 5 game series with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
I’m talking about the way most had forecasted this series going.
Spurs in six. The Spurs have home court advantage and the Rockets can’t win a 7 game series on the road they said.
San Antonio’s defense on the perimeter will not allow the Rockets to shoot as many 3 pointers as they’d like to they said.
The rockets averaged 38 three-point attempts against the Spurs in their 4 game regular season series, making just 27% of their shots from beyond the arc.
It was reasonable for those that understand how the Spurs like to play, and more specifically, how the Spurs and Rockets played each other throughout the regular season.
During the regular season, the Spurs took 3 of the 4 head-to-head meetings between the two, but all 4 of those games were separated by 6 points or less. In fact, 3 of them, including the lone Rockets win, was decided by 2 points.
Let’s not forget, the Rockets are not too far removed from destroying the Oklahoma City Thunder in game 1 of their series to start the postseason. Those two teams played each other extremely close during the regular season as well, (3 of the 4 games decided by 3 points or less, with the Rockets winning 3 of the 4) and once that final buzzer had sounded in Toyota center on April 16th, and the Rockets took a 1-0 series lead, many were ready to proclaim the series over.
It took 5 games, but again, all games from that point on were decided by 6 or fewer points.
As detached as Lamarcus Aldridge looked Monday night, as bad as David Lee was, especially early on the defensive side of the floor in particular, the Spurs will offer a sizeable counter punch.
It’s about setting a tone.
The Rockets certainly did that by getting a lot of guys involved early Monday night, and the hot shooting of both Trevor Ariza and Ryann Anderson certainly helped.
It may be a stretch, but the tone could have been offset early in that game if not for the confidence James Harden displayed in Clint Capela.
Capela seemed a bit out of sorts and not really with it in the early stages of the game on Monday, had a bad defensive possession against David Lee, picking up an early foul. Capela followed that with running down the floor with his head down as a Garden pass sailed by him for a turnover. Following a Spurs basket, Capela lazily inbounded a ball to Harden, which was nearly intercepted by Danny Green.
Harden, a couple of possessions later, got Capela the ball off the pick and roll going to the basket and all seemed to be right with the world again.
That basket put the Rockets up 15-6 at around the 8 minute mark. The Rockets began heating up from 3, and eventually won the quarter 34-23, before dropping straight FIRE on the Spurs in the 2nd quarter.
I thought it was a sloppy sequence by Capela, and an even more important one for the Rockets in setting the tone not just for the game but for the team. Harden continuing to try and get Capela good looks and touches boosted his confidence and I think opened the perimeter up for the Rockets, which set the tone for the game going forward.
The Rocket played together, the Spurs looked old, slow and if your name was Lamarcus Aldridge for the night, detached.
If you’re the Rockets, expect a counter-punch. It’s going to come. The Rockets will be tested before this series is over, as it’s only just beginning.