San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets Betting Preview
By Eric Uribe
The storylines in this series are endless. Interstate rivals. Battle of MVP candidates Kawhi Leonard and James Harden. Mike D’Antoni against his old foil Gregg Popovich. Offense vs. defense. New kids on the block against the grizzled veterans.
One thing is for sure, this is going to be a battle. San Antonio enter the series as the slight favorites at -265 to take the series. Houston is a slight underdog at +225.
Our favorite storyline is the clash of styles. On one hand, you have the upstart Rockets — a clear embodiment of the direction the NBA style has shifted.
Houston live and die by the three-pointer, as they set the single-season record for most three-point shots made and attempted. With athleticism all over the floor and deep into their bench, they are far from a one-man team.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, San Antonio are the disciplined, defensive specialists. Only two teams held opponents under 100 points in the regular season and the Spurs were one of them. Their roster is filled with older players, such as Pau Gasol, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili, and with age comes championship experience — or multiple rings in their case. They aren’t going to beat themselves.
It’ll be interesting to see who out-MVPs each other — Leonard or Harden. Leonard is fresh off an eye-popping series against the Grizzlies, as he averaged 31.2 points and six boards a game. Meanwhile, “The Beard” played lights out against the Spurs in the regular season. In four games, Harden averaged just shy of a trouble-double — 29.8 points, 11.8 assists, and nine rebounds.
Don’t be surprised when you see Leonard guarding Harden, most likely during crunch time. Leonard is the two-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year and might pull off the three-peat this season. In the first-round, Harden struggled offensively. Sure, he averaged 33 points (thanks to his ability to get to the charity stripe), but he shot just 41 percent from the field. And Oklahoma City aren’t particularly known as defensive stalwarts like the Spurs.
Those late-game one-on-one battles between the two superstars might be the difference in this series, because it’s going to be close. In the team’s four regular season meetings, each game was decided by one or two possessions. In the end, San Antonio won three of the previous matchups.
If the Spurs are going to win this series, they’ll need to find consistent production outside of Leonard. Aside from Leonard, the team struggled in the first round against Memphis. Only three other players averaged double-digits in scoring. LaMarcus Aldridge was suppose to be the No. 2 threat, but he was a ghost at times against the Grizzlies.
Tony Parker may be the X-Factor. The 34-year-old draws a matchup with Harden, who isn’t exactly a defensive specialist. Parker flashed last series, shooting 53 percent from the field for 16 points a game. The Spurs need a big series from Parker if they are going to keep up with the Rockets and their array of weapons.
For the Rockets, they are going to need Harden to prove he’s the truly the MVP. Harden has a reputation for shrinking in the postseason and he needs to break that this series. Houston got away with an off Harden against the Thunder, but that won’t cut it against San Antonio.
Furthermore, the Rockets will need to revert to their record-book setting ways from the three-point line. Against Oklahoma City, they drained just 28.4 percent of their shots from downtown. The Spurs will likely try to force Houston to beat them from inside, but they need to stay sharp from deep.
In the end, we like Houston to punch their ticket to the Western Conference finals. Above all, this series is just a mismatch. In recent memory, the Spurs have been burned by pick-and-roll and three-point savvy teams — and that’s exactly what the Rockets are. Houston will use their athleticism, depth, and youth to outlast San Antonio in this one.
Pick: Houston (+225)
Series outcome: six games
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