The San Antonio Spurs convincingly crushed the Houston Rockets 114-75 in Game 6 of their playoff series. In doing so, the Spurs advance to face the juggernaut Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. Meanwhile, the Rockets are left to scratch their heads trying to figure out how they let this golden opportunity slip away.
San Antonio Spurs’ Depth Helps Defeat Houston Rockets
The Rockets played by far their worst game of the season facing elimination. 75 was Houston’s lowest scoring output of the year. You may ask, what was their second-lowest? 92 points.
Tonight was Houston's worst loss in Playoff history, & their 9-37 (24.3%) 2P % was the worst percentage by any team in a game this season.
Houston’s 75 points were the fewest scored by the team in a playoff game since 2006.
Spurs’ Role Players Stepped Up
As the saying goes, “Father Time is undefeated.” With Pau Gasol and Manu Ginobili entering that phase of their careers, they’ve still been able to contribute while fighting off ‘Father Time’ valiantly at age 36 and 39, respectively. Gasol averaged 7.7 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks per game in the series. Ginobili averaged just 6.2 points per game, a significant drop-off from his playoff average of 14.2. While Ginobili isn’t quite the nifty player he once was, he still can turn back the clock when it matters most. James Harden found that out first-hand in the closing moments of Game 5.
With Gasol and Ginobili pitching in, players like Patty Mills also stepped up. In the wake of Tony Parker‘s injury, Mills averaged 14.7 points and 4.5 assists as a starter. Mills’ efforts, along with those of Danny Green, Jonathon Simmons, and Dejounte Murray (in Game 6), all encompassed the Spurs’ ‘next man up’ mentality to a tee. As a result, they’re moving on to the next round.
LaMarcus Aldridge Woke Up
With Kawhi Leonard sitting out Game 6 with an ankle injury, LaMarcus Aldridge silenced doubters with a crucial 34-point, 12-rebound performance. Sure, Aldridge had some impressive scoring performances earlier in the series; none came close to his Game 6 outing, though. The power forward had a throwback performance that was reminiscent of his days as the Portland Trail Blazers’ alpha dog, mixing in a combination of jumpers and drives all game long.
Aldridge’s monster game helped the big man punch his first ticket to the Conference Finals in his 11-year career.
Where Did James Harden Go?
Even without Leonard’s services, San Antonio made Houston look lost on both ends in Game 6. A large reason for that was the way they contained Harden. Harden shot just 2-for-11 from the field, finishing with 10 points. The Spurs did quite the job of containing Harden, considering he scored that low a point total just once in the regular season and playoffs. Harden also turned the ball over nine times in Game 6.
I mentioned in my series preview that the Rockets would only go as far as their star shooting guard could take them, given that he’s the team’s primary ball handler and scorer. The Spurs figured out how to shut him down. Once that happened, Houston’s role players couldn’t pick up the slack.
It seems that Harden’s performance facing elimination isn’t exclusively a result of how the Spurs defended him. ‘The Beard’ has struggled in the past when backed up against a wall.
James Harden's elimination game stats aren't awesome. 23 points, 5 boards, 6 assists, 6 turnovers per game. Sub-40 percent shooting. pic.twitter.com/gdC4raMhWX
There’s a reason San Antonio had the top-ranked defense in the NBA during the regular season. Matching up against a more athletic, offensive-minded Rockets team didn’t phase the Spurs one bit. In fact, they thrived against Houston, holding the Rockets below 100 points three times in six games.
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – OCTOBER 28: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs posts up against Steven Adams #12 of the Oklahoma City Thunder during the first quarter of a NBA game at the Chesapeake Energy Center on October 28, 2015 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images)