Gm 3: Spurs 105 Rockets 92

Patrick Beverly annoys me in video games. I played as the Thunder and my cousin as the Rockets, and when he put Bev on Westbrook he frustrated me with steals and tough defense. This was a couple of months ago and ever since I have irrationally not liked the real version either, after having previously had no opinion of him other than that he looks like a mechanic 1.

In Game 1, we knew Patrick Beverly was going to bother Tony Parker after giving the presumptive MVP a hard time in round one. And so it came to pass. TP didn’t have his best game, getting ripped and even blocked (by Lou Williams, no less). Was it Beverly or was it just a bad game? A little of both, probably.

Tony got the better of The Mechanic on Wednesday but obviously will not be able to continue this little battle. Enter Dejounte Murray, rookie PG with no fear. Before the game he reportedly told Pop “Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.”

As it was, he may have been mentally fine, but The Mechanic was in the dude’s chest for every minute of the first quarter, getting two steals, forcing Murray to think about things and get a little rattled after a while. Dejounte lost the ball while turning on a fast break with no one around him.

Beverly does not let you get comfortable with your dribble, and his style of defense takes some time to adjust to. Tony Parker needed a game, and Dejounte Murray probably needs one as well. The good news is that people can adjust to anything after some time. The Spurs adjusted to Memphis’ physicality and size but then needed time to adjust to the Rockets pace and space. So it goes.

My gut was telling me the Spurs were in for a beating tonight. Tony Parker is and will be missing and this is the first game that adjustments begin. This is not a regular season rotation experiment, but a playoff game wherein the opposing coaching staff is doing scouting for all of your options full-time. The game three bump happened only for Harden, who scored 43 points and found his three point shooting stroke again. The Spurs missed something like 100 jumpers (actually they shot 9/26 or 34% from the field, including 1/8 from three) in a quarter that Pop called “the worst display off offense I’ve ever seen.”

The entire first half was ugly, although the Spurs played better in the second. The squad managed 43 at the half (to the Rockets 39). That is only four points more than they managed in the first half of game one. While the Spurs offense was not producing buckets, it was patient and focused. That, remember, was the key to winning the second game.

LaMarcus Aldridge made a welcome appearance as an All-Star quality forward in this one. He was assertively shooting his turnaround, his catch-and-shoot 20-footers, and even tried a couple of threes. The team made a concerted effort to get him the ball in his spots, and out of timeouts, so credit is due all around. Pau is a great passer and has been great sneaking good passes to him for buckets. He did so last game, and slipped the bounce pass to Aldridge late in the fourth that was was an three point play.

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Kawhi finished 9/20 and missed two free throws. This, in his terms, was an off-night but he managed to be amazing anyway. After 19 years of overlooking the consistent greatness of Tim Duncan, I am making it a point to appreciate the Kawhi brilliance.

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Of course the other guys stepped up and made plays. Jonathan Simmons had that above, a clutch end-of-quarter three, and a great pass to LMA for a bucket. Outside of Trevor Ariza’s 12 points (five of five from deep) the Rockets were outplayed by the Spurs bench + other guys. It made all the post Game One reaction to the blowout seem knowing and not simply just player-speak. “It was just one game, we have to go out and do better.” That seemed trite but as Chris Paul might say, what do you expect them to say?

It remains no less true after this game, also. To win a series you need to win four, and so far the Spurs have simply won two. There is more work to do. Mike D’Antoni should make adjustments, but I have seen some people question his ability to do so.

The one adjustment they did make coming into Houston, was to attack Pau more violently.

Rockets Adjustments

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Harden, after missing more than a few layups in the second game, looked to dunk the ball more often instead of laying it in. That isn’t to say that James did not get layups this time because he did. Ariza was more forceful also. Tellingly, as was highlighted by the ESPN crew, the Spurs forced more midrange shots than the Rockets typically enjoy.

Look at the shot charts for game one and game five. Look at those midrange attempts.

Shot Chart Comparison

Remember the difference in playoff games is a handful of shots, usually. Taking even five more shots at midrange is better for San Antonio than the Rockets shooting five more threes, or five more layups.

Of course it also helped that the Spurs have insisted on not letting James Harden bait them into cheap fouls, where he can go to the line and rack up free threw attempts. He was more than a little frustrated with the calls he wasn’t getting and that is great.

Defense

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That is quality defense. Grant Hill commented on how the Spurs were using their anti-Suns defense from the mid-2000s. Then, then stuck to the Suns’ shooters and played two vs two. Then it was Nash/Amaré and now it is Harden/Capela. The Beard had 43 last night, and it was not near enough. When he tried to force a pass here and there, Patty got a steal, or nothing happened. Ryan Anderson, he of the 16 points per game average in San Antonio, managed just two.

In Game Four the Rockets will shoot a little better, but so should the Spurs.


  1. Every time my cousin got a steal with Bev he shouted ‘THE MECHANIC’ and I laughed and got angry at the same time. Lesson: Do not play video games.