The San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets are fierce Texas rivals, but the two squads are in different situations heading into their matchup in Orlando today (2 p.m. ET Tuesday on NBA TV).
The 31-38 Spurs have two games remaining in the regular season and they will very likely need to win both contests to put themselves in playoff position. Needless to say, they’ll be motivated to win this contest.
Houston’s record of 44-25 has the team at No. 4 in the Western Conference and the squad will likely stay there. The Rockets are resting some of their key players for one of their last two games, including James Harden and Eric Gordon for this contest against the Spurs.
San Antonio is the more motivated team, but both teams are missing some players who have been important throughout the season and there’s a reason that the Rockets are far ahead of the Spurs in the standings. USAbetting will explore some burning questions surrounding this matchup in this preview before making our betting picks and San Antonio Spurs vs Houston Rockets predictions.
Will Spurs’ Jakob Poeltl Find Balance Between Aggression & Discipline?
The Spurs’ Poeltl has had some good moments in the bubble, but he’s been a slight disappointment overall as the team’s starting center. Most people figured he would play major minutes as one of San Antonio’s only big men, since both starting center LaMarcus Aldridge and starting power forward Trey Lyles are out with injuries.
Poeltl’s average for minutes per game has been just 26.2 in the bubble and the main reason for that is foul trouble. He has fouled out twice already, playing only 21 and 25 minutes in those contests. Against the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday, he didn’t foul out, but his five fouls limited his playing time to 22 minutes. He has also been too meek as a finisher, as well, opting for layups rather than dunks too often.
San Antonio needs Poeltl to see the court for much of the game today if it plans to win. The Spurs 7-footer has a chance to make a major impact as an offensive rebounder and finisher inside against the Rockets’ undersized big men.
However, he needs to find the perfect balance between aggression and discipline. Houston’s undersized interior players are crafty and will try to draw fouls on Poeltl, but he can’t fall for their tricks.
Does Austin Rivers Have Another Gem in Store For Houston?
Any team that has a bench player score 41 points in a game is all but guaranteed to win said game. That’s what the Rockets got from Rivers on Sunday against the Sacramento Kings. The 28-year-old guard hit 14 of his 20 field-goal attempts and drained six out of 11 three-point attempts.
The way Rivers scored his points was especially impressive. He created most of his opportunities himself with slick ball-handling moves, crafty step back shots and creative finishes at the basket. The confidence he was playing with reminded me of his high school highlights. At that time, he dominated all of his competition as one of the top few recruits in the United States.
With both James Harden and Eric Gordon out, Rivers will need to put up another big performance, especially from three-point range. Remember, though, that we are still talking about a guy who entered Sunday’s contest averaging 8.4 points per game this season on a 41.7/35.4/68.7 shooting slash. Sunday was his first time scoring more than 11 points in a game in Orlando.
Rivers will face a slightly more motivated and defensively stout perimeter defense for the Spurs today. Will his hot streak continue?
Will Houston Be Able to Force Spurs into Turnovers?
One key tenet of the Rockets’ small-ball approach is that it aims to force significantly more turnovers than it commits. Houston has little chance of winning the rebounding battle, but it can stay competitive in the possession battle if it ends the opponent’s possession prematurely with a scrambling defense.
The Rockets will be without Harden and Gordon, which means the team will have a significantly different (and not as deep) perimeter rotation compared to normal. Russell Westbrook, Austin Rivers, Ben McLemore, Michael Frazier, Danuel House and Robert Covington will all spend plenty of time defending the Spurs’ guards.
So what’s the tough thing about this point for Houston? The Spurs are the best team in the NBA at avoiding turnovers on a per-possession basis. They aren’t quite as good as that now that some of their young players are seeing more opportunities in the bubble, but it’s still a relative strength.
The Rockets will need to find within themselves the motivation and energy to push for interceptions, deflections and drawn charges. It may be tough considering the Rockets’ coaching staff has demonstrated that seeding is not very important to them, but the players will need to force lots of turnovers if they want to perform well in this game.
Our Betting Preview’s San Antonio Spurs vs Houston Rockets Predictions & Picks Verdict
I see the Spurs’ young players trying to speed this game up and the Rockets will probably also play a little bit more quickly without James Harden’s isolation play. Ultimately, I think the Spurs’ motivation to punch their postseason ticket will be the deciding factor for a lot of the loose balls and when it comes down to gutting out a victory in crunch time.
The fact that Houston’s already short rotation will be without Harden and Gordon will definitely hurt the team as the game wears on. Russell Westbrook will play his hardest for the Rockets but the Spurs have more offensive weapons and overall depth.
I also believe Derrick White will play for the Spurs, in spite of his minor knee injury. He is arguably the team’s best all-around player and should help significantly on both ends. So, in a bid to get the better of the best US sportsbooks and top online betting sites, these are our San Antonio Spurs vs Houston Rockets predictions:
- The favored team with the bookmakers in this game is San Antonio, by 2 or 2.5pts. Bet on the Spurs -2pts @ -115 with Bookmaker or BetOnline.
- As mentioned in this NBA preview, I think the Spurs will try to keep the pace of this game relatively high to exploit the Rockets’ lack of depth. Houston’s offense should also be relatively fast-paced without Harden. I definitely recommend betting the over 235 total points @ -110 with Bookmaker, 5Dimes or BetOnline.
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.