Wednesday, March 22, 2023
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NBA Preview: San Antonio Spurs (16-48) at Houston Rockets (14-49)

On Saturday, the Rockets made progress by playing an evenly matched third quarter in San Antonio, Texas. This was a small step that showed Houston could build on.

Houston outpaced San Antonio 25-22 in the third quarter on Saturday to win 122-110, despite being dominated by the Spurs in each of their previous two meetings this season. With the victory, the Rockets ended an 11-game losing streak and will be able to level the season series when the teams meet again on Sunday in Houston.

In their two victories in January, the Spurs outscored the Rockets 71-37 in the third quarter, and despite giving up 41 points in the second, they trailed by just two points entering the third of their third meeting this season.

This time, Houston did not give up the lead. It doubled its advantage twice before taking a 95-90 lead into the fourth. The Rockets took control for good with a 12-4 run early in the final frame, despite playing without their bench players.

The Rockets’ bench scored 57 points, including 20 from rookie Tari Eason, who also had five rebounds, two assists, two steals, and two blocks to go along with his career-high 20 points. Josh Christopher played 19 significant minutes in reserve and contributed 14 points and four assists, while Usman Garuba scored 11 points off the bench on 3-for-3 shooting from three-point range.

The all-around performance was crucial for a Rockets team that was without Jae’Sean Tate and Kevin Porter Jr., who was out for 20 games with a problem with his left big toe. In his first game back, Porter Jr. scored 11 points, grabbed six rebounds, and had five assists.

15 Spurs turnovers turned into 25 points for the Rockets’ transition offense. With Devonte’ Graham’s sharp shooting and team-high 28 points, including 7-of-12 shooting from behind the arc, Houston was able to offset the Spurs’ plus-21 scoring margin on 3-pointers with 30 fast-break points and 74 points in the paint.

Zach Collins and rookie Jeremy Sochan scored 14 points each for the Spurs. However, they were without Keldon Johnson (foot) and Devin Vassell, who returned from a two-month injury absence against the Indiana Pacers on Thursday but did not play on Saturday.

Johnson and Vassell, who play together and score 41.2 points per game, could play on Sunday, which would certainly help the Spurs win the season series against Houston.

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