Rockets-Spurs Best of Three All About Contrast in Styles

James Harden after the Rockets game four win over the Spurs to even the series heading into game five.
James Harden after the Rockets game four win over the Spurs to even the series heading into game five.
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Spurs vs. Rockets

Control vs. Controlled Chaos

Walk vs. Run

Shoot First vs. Shoot Best

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What makes the Rockets and the Spurs so compelling in this series is the dramatic contrast of styles. With the semifinals series reduced to a best of three, nothing has been or will be more important to either team.

The Spurs are the picture of control. They want to keep the game close to the vest, play good defense, take smart shots. They are the parents preaching calm, rational decision making at a college talk on underage drinking. The Rockets, on the other hand, are a bit like the frat guy who runs into that same meeting screaming, "Kegger at Alpha House!" They want to run other teams into submission. They've never seen a shot that wasn't worth taking and they are comfortable in chaos.

Both approaches have been on display in the first four games of the series, where the closest margin of victory was the Spurs' game three win by 11 even though it felt not nearly that close for most of the second half. Sure, it's going to go to at least six games, but we have yet to witness a full 48 minutes of competitive basketball.

Both teams thrive so much on their own style of play that when they are removed from it, they tend to flail. Forced to slow down and grind, the Rockets lose their rhythm. Shooters get bogged down, turnovers mount and easy baskets disappear. Quicken the Spurs' pace and LaMarcus Aldridge is rendered virtually useless. Spurs shooters begin chucking shots from all over the floor (not their strength) and their trademark defense is reduced to running full speed just to catch up.

And this is reflected in even the most basic statistics. No one needs advanced stats to recognize that the team who controlled the glass, consistently found the open man, turned the ball over infrequently and got to the free throw line won the game. Look at the numbers.

Game 1: Rockets win.

Rebounding: Rockets +4
Assists: Rockets +11
Turnovers: Rockets +4
Free Throws: Spurs +9

Game 2: Spurs win.

Rebounding: Spurs +16
Assists: Spurs +5
Turnovers: Spurs +4
Free Throws: Spurs +3

Game 3: Spurs win.

Rebounding: Spurs +10
Assists: Spurs +6
Turnovers: Rockets +6
Free Throws: Spurs +2

Game 4: Rockets win.

Rebounding: Spurs +2
Assists: Rockets +5
Turnovers: Rockets +5
Free Throws: Spurs +8

Typically series that are this close in wins and losses will have at least a few games with winning margins in the single digits. But not so for Houston and San Antonio, two teams so remarkably different, they actually warp the opponent's play on the floor to a radical degree.

Everyone wants to know how the series will turn out, but perhaps the bigger question is will there be a game that comes down to a final possession? The way this series is going, that seems unlikely.


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