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Every Time The Rockets Win, An Angel Loses Its Wing

By Jeff Koch on December 26, 2013.

Houston 111, San Antonio 98

I seem to make this assertion at least once a season, and I suppose it’s time for that post again: despite the popular myth that NBA games don’t really matter until the 4th quarter, first quarters do indeed count on the scoreboard. Doug Collins always likes to say that the NBA is a 1st quarter game. If you throw out the first quarter of last night’s game, the Spurs actually got the better of the Rockets, 73-71.

Sadly, we still have to count those 40 points in the first quarter. And really, no team deserves to win an NBA game giving up 40 first quarter points on their home floor.

The Spurs played hard to fight back into this game, but the damage had already been done. Before either team had broken a sweat, the Rockets already possessed a double digit lead, bordering on a 20-point lead. They were getting everywhere they wanted on the floor, scoring at the rim and from behind the 3-point line. The Spurs, meanwhile, were either settling for long 2-pointers, or wildly attacking the paint and throwing up prayers.

Parker, in particular, played spectacularly bad. It was probably his worst game of the season. He looked flat and completely out of sorts, and was pressing way too much. The true beauty of Parker’s game is how well he can attack and play such an aggressive style of basketball while remaining completely self-possessed and under control and in complete command of the offense. On Christmas, none of those things were true. He pressed, failed, then disappeared.

We’ll grant him one bad game, but I’ve been worried about Parker’s play for a good stretch of this season. Tonight is a bit of an outlier, but he just seems a step behind himself, a split second out of sync with the level of play he was at last season. The Spurs are built in such a way as to withstand down play from just about any spot on the roster, but Parker really is the key to this offense being great rather than merely good.

As for Houston, they played exactly as they wanted to. Howard was a beast in the middle, and Harden continued his stretch of just destroying the Spurs, particularly in the 4th quarter. The key to beating teams like Houston is usually in stopping the 3rd and 4th (and beyond) options, and just hoping to contain the best players. The games that Harden and Howard had are completely acceptable; it was Parsons, Jones, and Lin that really killed the Spurs. Parsons could not miss from 3, Jones was, at times, the best big on the floor (a floor containing two Hall of Fame big men), and Lin outplayed Parker, pretty easily. To beat the Rockets, you have to slow down something.

On the plus side, I did enjoy the special sleeved jerseys. I’d totally wear one.

The Spurs have a chance to take out their frustration tonight against Dallas. I expect a hungry and focused team.

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