NBA rivalries are always fun. They bring out a heightened level of competitiveness from players and fans alike, leading to a playoff atmosphere even in the regular season.
Unfortunately, rivalries aren’t as fun when one team is much better than the other. This year, that has been the case for the 13-6 Houston Rockets and 7-14 San Antonio Spurs as they prepare for a matchup today in San Antonio (8:30 p.m. ET Tuesday).
Houston has center Clint Capela returning to the lineup after an illness, but wing Danuel House will miss today’s contest. For the Spurs, LaMarcus Aldridge is questionable to play with a thigh injury.
With those factors in mind, let’s ask a few important questions with relevance to this game. Finally, with our Houston Rockets at San Antonio Spurs predictions, USAbetting will offer some betting suggestions based on the first rate U.S. sportsbooks’ posted lines for this game.
Will Spurs Change Their Perimeter Rotation?
Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich has been stubborn with his rotations this season. Coach Pop is one of the all-time greats, but he is doing his team a bit of a disservice by his minutes distribution patterns. He is prioritizing offense over defense by giving 99 combined minutes per game to perimeter players who are below-average to terrible on defense: DeMar DeRozan, Bryn Forbes, Patty Mills and Marco Belinelli.
The Rockets might be the worst team in the NBA to play if your perimeter players struggle on defense due to size, athleticism or discipline. James Harden is the best scorer in the NBA, averaging a ridiculous 38.9 points per game, and backcourt mate Russell Westbrook averages 22.1 points per game of his own.
The Spurs played the Rockets in the preseason, and Dejounte Murray, Derrick White and Lonnie Walker had success covering Harden and Westbrook for long stretches with their size, athleticism and effort. Harden finished with 40 points, but much of that came with different players on the court guarding him.
However, Murray, White and Walker, as well as free-agent signing DeMarre Carroll, are not getting enough minutes with this Spurs’ team. Those players could really help the perimeter defense in this game if Popovich is willing to give them a chance.
Will Foul Trouble Be an Issue for Any of Houston’s Starters?
The Rockets are a very good team, but their roster is somewhat of a delicate balance due to shaky depth. James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Clint Capela, PJ Tucker and Eric Gordon form the core of the team, and Austin Rivers, Danuel House and Ben McLemore play key roles as well. Gordon has been injured for a while, and House is not expected to play.
Houston already gives very big minutes to its starters. In a loss to the Dallas Mavericks last week, only seven players received more than three minutes of playing time. House’s absence will test the rotation even more.
San Antonio could be in good shape to win this game if foul trouble for Westbrook, Harden, Tucker or Capela affects the Rockets’ rotation. The Spurs will benefit if the Rockets have to play extra minutes to deep bench players who haven’t found their chemistry with the rest of the rotation.
Will Spurs Stay Somewhat Close in Three-Point Battle?
As mentioned earlier in the preview, this game is a major clash of styles. The Rockets take 45.7 three-pointers per game, making 15.7 of them. The Spurs take just 25.7 three-pointers per game, making exactly nine of them.
San Antonio’s roster is not built for three-point shooting and coach Gregg Popovich has also mentioned his distaste for the shot in the past. However, if the Spurs plan to keep this game close or win, they can’t let the Rockets keep getting three points on possessions while they mostly top out at two points on their possessions.
In the previous two seasons, San Antonio has just a 2-6 record against Houston. In the six Rockets wins, the Rockets have made 16.7 three-pointers per game to the Spurs’ 9 threes per game. In the two Spurs wins, however, both teams have made an average of 8 three-pointers per game.
The Spurs won’t ever take a ton of threes but they need to make a high percentage of the ones they take. San Antonio also needs to hope that Houston is somewhat cold from long distance.
Our Preview’s Houston Rockets vs San Antonio Spurs Picks & Betting Predictions Verdict
Interestingly enough, I think the absence of Danuel House for the Rockets could loom large in this game. Houston needs his defense on the perimeter to help out Russell Westbrook and James Harden, who are more invested in the offensive end of the floor.
For the Spurs, I think Sunday’s blowout loss to the Detroit Pistons in which they allowed 132 points was a sort of rock bottom point for the team. Don’t be surprised to see Gregg Popovich pull out some new, more defensive-minded rotations and for players to give a motivated performance.
Combined with the fact that both of these teams have somewhat drastic home-road splits in terms of record and point differential, I think the Spurs could fare surprisingly well in this game. These are the Houston Rockets vs San Antonio Spurs predictions for this preview:
- The Houston Rockets are favored by 5.5 points. I recommend going with the Spurs +5.5pts on the spread @ best odds of -110 with Bovada, Intertops or Bookmaker.
- As mentioned, I think the Spurs could have a bounce-back defensive performance at home after Sunday’s debacle in Detroit. The Rockets’ depleted rotation could also mean they play a slower pace than normal to counter San Antonio’s superior depth. You should take the under 234.5 total points @ -110 with Bovada, BetOnline or Bookmaker.
Jared is a lifelong sports fan and writer whose specialist subject is NBA. A 2015 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Jared has been a sought-after freelance sports writer. In addition to his valuable USA Betting contributions, he has also written for other top media outlets.