Even after another blow out loss in Game 4, the Spurs didn't panic.
About what, neither would divulge. In the Western Conference, Boston Celtics lead Washington Wizards 3-2 ahead of Game 6 on Friday night. San Antonio's wing duo of Danny Green and Jonathan Simmons played lockdown defence as Harden coughed up six turnovers.
That came as a result of the Spurs absolutely pounding the Rockets in the paint. But even without a gimpy Leonard, who was averaging 24 points and 10 rebounds in the series, the Spurs were relentless while receiving contributions from everyone. Two of those performances came in a series-clinching win (2014, 2017).
"All great players think they can do everything", D'Antoni said (via ESPN)."Maybe he does need to take a game off here and there".
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Regardless, against a San Antonio team without their superstar, Houston could have done better than getting a 39-point beatdown on their home court with their backs against the wall.
Aldridge became the first Spur to score 34 points with 12 rebounds in a playoff game since Tim Duncan against Phoenix in 2008. (Kevin Durant sort of changes this calculus, but whatever.) Aldridge stands to carry a heavier load against the Warriors, especially if Kawhi Leonard is still hobbled. The Rockets shot below 30 percent from the field Thursday night, thanks in large part to the efforts on defense. In Game 6 of their Western Conference Semifinal matchup with the San Antonio Spurs, the Rockets were on the ropes down 3-2 in the series, but laid a massive bearded egg. After all, he played the third-most minutes in the league during the regular season. Yet here they were inflicting damage on the Rockets, in part because of the tone set by Aldridge inside.
"That's how they won this last series (against the Rockets), by keeping balls alive", Durant said.
"We're not as good as we looked", Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said, "and they're not the team that people are used to seeing in Houston".
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When the Spurs opened the second half with an 8-1 burst sparked by six points from Aldridge, the advantage ballooned to 26 points.
San Antonio's All-Star said after the game that it was "a little sore" and he was limping. Save his energy, play him less, manage it better. "I just told the guys, they had an unbelievable year". LaMarcus had a tremendous game, and you have to give him a lot of credit. Upgrading the defensive depth would be a good start.
Harden did get a standing ovation after fouling out from the Rockets fans that did remain in the building when the game was winding down. Instead, it should prioritize the addition of perimeter defenders who can spell Patrick Beverley and Trevor Ariza, thereby ensuring the squad has legitimate stoppers on the floor at all times and never forcing too much point-preventing responsibility onto the shoulders of Harden and the other primary scorers. "So I had a chance to figure it out".
"I was trying to keep them in front of me, " Harden said. He got the ball moving early in the shot clock, and directed the offense down to the post. They stuck to what they figured would work, the players bought in, and it paid off in Games 5 and 6.
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