After a dominant 21 point victory in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinal series between the San Antonio Spurs and the Houston Rockets, the pendulum has swung back to the middle. The series is tied and now heads back to the AT&T Center for the pivotal Game 5 today (8pm ET Tuesday on TNT).
The San Antonio Spurs needed six games to dispatch their familiar playoff foes, the Memphis Grizzlies, in the first round of the playoffs. After going up 2-0, the Grizzles evened the series by winning both games at home, the second of which came in overtime. But the battle-tested and experienced Spurs proved to be too much against the young and hungry Grizzles, allowing San Antonio to take over the series. The Spurs were undefeated at home throughout the series.
The Rockets meanwhile, finished off the Oklahoma City Thunder in just five games as James Harden outdueled his top competition for the NBA MVP, Russell Westbrook. The Rockets dominated in the first game of the series, but every other game was decided by less than six points per contest. Houston won all three of their games at home, just like San Antonio.
HOU/SAS Series Recap
These two teams entered their second round series evenly matched up until tip off of Game 1, which was completely and utterly dominated by the Houston Rockets.
Houston led from the start and by the end of the fourth quarter, had given San Antonio its worst loss in playoff history. The Rockets won by 27 and scored 126 points in the contest. Trevor Ariza led all scorers with 23 and both Harden and Clint Capela added 20. In all, six Rockets scored in double figures, including two off the bench. San Antonio was led by 21 points from Kawhi Leonard. Tony Parker and Jonathon Simmons, were the only other Spurs in double figures, scoring 11 points each.
The Spurs struck back in Game 2 with a 25 point victory of their own, allowing them to even the series. However, San Antonio lost a big piece of their offense in that game as with just under nine minutes left on the clock. Tony Parker, who had scored 18 points, was carried off the court with an apparent left leg injury. He underwent successful surgery later in the week, but Parker’s season and career, may very well be over. The Rockets once again placed six in double figures but no one scored more than 20 points. San Antonio was led by Parker’s 18 and a game-high 34 from Leonard, who added seven rebounds and eight assists as well.
Parker was there in spirit as the Spurs headed to Houston to take back home field advantage in the series. This was the closest game of the series so far and the only one to be decided by less than 20 points. Leonard continued his playoff excellence and LaMarcus Aldridge stepped up in Parker’s absence to be one of the team’s co-leaders in points with 26. Five Spurs finished in double figures and San Antonio outrebounded Houston 49-39. The Rockets were paced by Harden, who had his first monster game of the series, leading all scorers with 43 points in 40 minutes. He was also 10-for-11 from the free throw line.
Still in Houston, the Rockets felt the urgency to get back into the winning column and did so in a big way. The Spurs trailed the majority of the game and never could quite close the gap that the Rockets had created by the half. Houston placed seven players in double figures, including all but one of their starters. Harden, who continued to make his imprint known on this series, once again led all scorers with 28. Additionally, he recorded 12 assists. No San Antonio player had more than 20 points with Simmons leading his team with 17.
Keys to Game 5
Heading into this Game 5 there are various factors that might decide the result and influence this betting preview’s predictions and picks.
- Injuries – As the series returns to San Antonio, the Rockets look to have the momentary advantage. However, as this series has shown, that can change very quickly. The Spurs lost Parker, the impact of which has shown but Houston is no longer at full strength either as Nene was injured early in the team’s game four victory.
- X-Factor – One of the most underrated players in this or any other playoff series really, is Jonathon Simmons, who unsurprisingly is another one of San Antonio’s incredible success stories. Simmons was a 27-year-old second year player in the 2016-17 season, following several years in the team’s D-League, who averaged just over six points in the regular season. In this series however, Simmons has averaged over 18 minutes per game and 12.3 points. In Parker’s absence, his contributions off the bench have been critical.
- Harden Heating Up – The biggest positive for the Rockets and the biggest worry for the Spurs, is that James Harden seems to be heating up to his regular season norm. Harden put up huge numbers in 2016-17 as part of an NBA MVP-caliber year, averaging over 29 points, over 11 assists and over eight rebounds per game. In Houston’s first round against Oklahoma City, Harden bettered his scoring average with 33.2 points per game. Against San Antonio however, Harden’s scoring numbers have been down as he’s only averaging 26 points game. While this may not seem like a bad total at all, after the first two games, Harden only had 33 points, including a 13-point output which was his lowest such mark since late February. Harden did however have 24 assists in those first two games, 14 in the first, which was a big part of the reason the Rockets were able to win that opener as decisively as they did. Harden’s most recent game saw him offer productivity from both the assist and scoring category and that’s when Harden is at his most dangerous. If he is in fact heating up, the Spurs have reason to worry.
Our Preview’s Houston Rockets at San Antonio Spurs Game 5 Picks & Betting Predictions
- Back in San Antonio, the Spurs find themselves 5.5 point favorites with the top recommended oddsmakers. Given the way this series has gone with more blowouts than not, our betting prediction is to take the Spurs -5.5pts to cover this margin in a Game 5 victory @ best odds of -105 with BetOnline. It is -110 generally with most of the others.
- As for the total points, the over / under sits at 214 or 215pts, our pick is to bet the over 214pts @ -110 with 5Dimes Sportsbook or MyBookie.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.