Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinal series between the San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets finally gave us a dose of the drama we’ve been waiting for. The series had been close, but none of the games had gone down to the wire.
San Antonio ended up pulling out the victory in overtime behind some clutch plays from Danny Green and Manu Ginobili, as well as bad offense by the Rockets. The Spurs now possess a 3-2 lead in the series, with a chance to close the Rockets out tonight in Houston (8pm Thursday ET on ESPN).
However, not all is going swimmingly in San Antonio. The team’s best player on both ends of the floor, Kawhi Leonard, suffered an injured right knee and left ankle in the second half of the Game 5 win. Per the team’s official Twitter account, he’s questionable for Game 6, though I assume he’ll try to play.
Let’s dive into a few questions surrounding this potential elimination and then make this preview’s predictions and betting picks as to how the game will shake out.
How Much Will Kawhi Leonard Be Affected By His Injuries?
Leonard vowed to play Game 6 in Houston despite his injured knee and ankle. However, his injury status being questionable makes me believe he won’t be close to 100 percent for the contest.
If his mobility is affected significantly, he probably won’t be able to check James Harden at all. On the offensive end, the strength he gets from his legs on jump shots could be compromised. His cuts to the basket might not be as strong.
Although San Antonio won in overtime without Kawhi for the last several minutes of the contest, Houston should handle the Spurs easily today if Leonard doesn’t look in proper condition to play a game.
Can Mike D’Antoni Expand His Rotation Without Any Ill Effects?
The injury to Nene has forced D’Antoni’s hand. He only trusts seven healthy guys on his roster and he played exclusively those seven guys in the Game 5 loss. Four of the Rockets played at least 40 minutes, and six played at least 36 minutes. San Antonio, meanwhile, put nine guys on the floor throughout the contest.
When the game went to overtime, Houston’s offense slowed way down, presumably because of fatigue. James Harden dribbled the ball in isolation for most of the team’s possessions. In doing so, he shot 0-of-3 from the field and had three turnovers in the extra session.
D’Antoni must add at least one more body to his rotation, whether it’s Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell or someone else. Not only does he need to do that to preserve his key players’ energy, he must get acceptable production from that addition to the rotation.
Can the Spurs Continue to Protect the Ball?
The Spurs’ ability to defend the Rockets’ transition offense depends a lot on how they play offense. If they frequently turn the ball over in live-ball situations a lot, Houston gets the fast-break layups and wide-open three-pointers it likes so much.
San Antonio has done a fantastic job limiting turnovers in two of its three wins, tallying just 14 combined miscues in Games 2 and 5. However, in the team’s Game 1 and Game 4 losses, it turned the ball over a combined 29 times.
The Spurs need to move the ball without making passes that are too risky. They also need to use their body better to shield the ball from Houston defenders, so the Rockets have to foul if they go for steals.
Our Preview’s San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets Game 6 Betting Picks & Predictions
This series is destined to go seven games. With the back-and-forth nature of the series, Kawhi Leonard’s injuries and Houston only losing Game 5 because of an offensive meltdown down the stretch, the Rockets should be a strong favorite to win Game 6. Houston will be the team playing with more of a sense of desperation.
The fact that Houston uses a shorter rotation probably won’t matter as much at home, with its home crowd giving it energy to play hard and preserve its season.
- This line is the most lopsided of the series, but it makes sense. The Rockets are favored by 7pts or 7.5pts with the offshore bookies. I still think Houston covers this line, though, behind a big performance from James Harden that can’t be matched by Leonard. So pick Houston -7pts @ -115 with Bovada or MyBookie. That’s the best odds at the most advantageous spread.
- The over/unders listed range from 213 to 214 total points to be score in this Game 6. I actually think the Spurs’ offense will be more affected by Leonard’s injuries than their defense, as he may force things despite being less than 100 percent. However, San Antonio should step up on the defensive end around him. My betting prediction is to bet the under 214pts @ -110 with Bovada Sportsbook. This is the best option, being the highest line available.