Friday, November 14, 2008

Yahoo: Spurs vs. Rockets Preview

Game info: 8:30 pm EST Fri Nov 14, 2008 TV: SS
By Dan Pieringer

The offseason acquisition of Ron Artest gave the Houston Rockets a “Big Three” they hoped could contend with that of the San Antonio Spurs.

As the Southwest Division rivals head into their first meeting of the season, however, Houston’s trio clearly has the advantage over San Antonio’s injury-plagued nucleus.

Artest, Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming look to help the Rockets end a five-game road trip successfully on Friday night when they meet a Spurs team still trying to overcome the absences of Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.

Houston acquired Artest in the offseason, hoping the volatile forward could help bolster the team’s defense and provide a third scoring option.

The transition hasn’t been entirely smooth for the Rockets (5-3), but they’re optimistic after Wednesday’s 94-82 victory over Phoenix. Though Artest shot 1-of-12 from the field, McGrady had 27 points and Yao added 17 and 15 rebounds as Houston bounced back from an embarrassing 111-82 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.

“It’s a terrific win for us,” Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. “We stormed back and really controlled the tempo well the whole game and made shots. We moved the ball better, we got back defensively.”

While the Rockets are encouraged, the Spurs (2-5) can’t say the same after an 82-78 loss to Milwaukee on Wednesday continued their worst start since they opened 2-13 in 1996-97.

“If we can hold somebody to 82 points, I’m thrilled. I’m jumping up and down,” said defensive-minded Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. “But we’re a little challenged offensively right now.”

That’s because San Antonio’s playing without two of its top three players in Ginobili and Parker, who have helped lead the Spurs to three NBA titles in the last six years.

Ginobili hasn’t played this season because he’s still recovering from offseason ankle surgery, and Parker will be sidelined about a month after spraining his left ankle in a loss to Miami last Friday.

Tim Duncan, the only healthy member of San Antonio’s vaunted trio, continues to deliver. He had 24 points on Wednesday, including 14 of the Spurs’ 19 points in the fourth quarter, and is averaging 25.3 points and 10.3 rebounds.

But the two-time MVP and 10-time All-Star can’t carry the team by himself.

“The whole thing is frustrating, however you want to look at it,” he said.

Decimated by injuries, the Spurs have turned to two relative no-names to start in the backcourt. Point guard George Hill, the 26th overall pick in June’s draft, has totaled 16 points and 6-for-15 shooting in his first two career starts.

“Any time you come in and you have a player like Tony go down, it’s always different, you can’t be a Tony Parker, but I think it’s just staying focused and doing what got me here,” Hill said.

Meanwhile, Roger Mason Jr., who’s made three straight starts at shooting guard, has averaged 13.9 points in his first seven games for the Spurs.

“He’s been of paramount importance to us because he’s really been a scorer for us,” Popovich said. “I think when we get healthy, his real value will show.”

The home team won each game as the Spurs and Rockets split their four-game series last season. Duncan averaged 19.0 points and 11.5 rebounds, while San Antonio held McGrady to 11.3 points per game and 27.1 percent (13-for-48) shooting from the field in three games.



G-F Tracy McGrady scored 22 points in second half en route to a game-high 27 on 11-of-18 shooting from the floor. McGrady entered the night having scored a total of five points in his last two games, shooting 1-of-16. ... Houston PGs Rafer Alston and Aaron Brooks combined for 34 points on 15-of-24 shooting, with four assists, four rebounds and just one turnover.


The San Antonio Spurs suffered another setback at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday, and now have fallen to 8-11 against Milwaukee in the past nine-plus seasons. The Spurs have a .714 winning percentage against other teams in the league during that stretch. ? The Spurs allowed 31 points in the first half and 15 in the first quarter, both season lows, but still could not pull out a victory after a season-low 78 points. ... The four starters for the Spurs who joined F-C Tim Duncan on the floor Wednesday combined for 14 points.

Team Stat Leaders

Tracy McGrady Hou 17.8
Tony Parker SA 27.4

Yao Ming Hou 9.9
Tim Duncan SA 10.3

Tracy McGrady Hou 4.9
Tony Parker SA 5.8

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