The San Antonio Spurs are headed for the Western Conference Finals to play the Golden State Warriors after defeating the Houston Rockets in Game 6. We didn’t find out if Kawhi Leonard would play with his ankle injury until the start of the game, and unfortunately, he spent the game on the bench. However, Game 6 proved that the Spurs are a lot more than just Kawhi Leonard. With Leonard and Tony Parker out, the Spurs still had full control over the Rockets. Lucky for the Rockets, there’s no shame in losing to a team as consistent and celebrated as the Spurs.
In case you missed Game 6, here’s a little recap:
The Rockets were blown out within the first 5 minutes and couldn’t seem to ever find their rhythm. Their largest lead was by one point and it last all of 38 seconds. The Rockets made just 13 of the 40 3-pointers they took, a large contrast to their 22-of-50 explosion from Game 1. Even though the Spurs were missing 2 of their key players, they play with consistent discipline on both sides of the court. Our offense was driving in the paint and passing balls off with ease. San Antonio bottled up Houston by locking them down in transition and by winning the individual match-ups on the perimeter. The Spurs finished Round 2 114-75. Let’s look at the star players from last night:
LaMarcus Aldridge got a lot of praise for his performance in Game 3, but he was the focal point of the offense in Game 6. Aldridge shot 8-of-12 in the first half. He finished with 34 points and 12 rebounds, even taking shots right over the smaller guys. When Leonard is out there, a lot of people tend to overlook Aldridge. This has definitely been his best game this season.
Dejounte Murray and Jonathon Simmons
The Spurs are known for developing good players into magical talent. We can look at Leonard, Parker, Danny Green, and Manu Ginobili as proof. After last night’s performances, we can even add Dejounte Murray and Jonathan Simmons to that list. Murray was the 29th pick in last year’s draft. Simmons paid $150 to try out for the NBA Development League when he wasn’t drafted after college. With Gregg Popovich, the Spurs have mastered the art of basketball.
Murray and Simmons combined 29 points on 13-of-22 shooting in Game 6. Since Leonard was out, they were able to get a lot more playing time. They were attacking closeouts, constantly contesting shots, blocking drives, and even executing some rim protection. Simmons started for the first time in playoffs and was a nightmare on Harden. Murray even outscored Harden. Murray is a rookie who was thrown into a starting spot during the second round of playoffs and has improved with each game. Here’s a crazy stat from last night: The pair had a net rating of plus-118.3 in just 13 minutes!
James Harden’s performance was just embarrassing – but it proved that the Spurs is still the Spurs without Leonard, and the Rockets aren’t the Rockets without Harden. Harden only scored 10 points, turned the ball over 6 times, and had no energy on the court. Many of his turnovers came in weird ways. At least 2 were because he and his teammate weren’t looking at each other. Others just lacked energy or were poor decisions. On offense, the Spurs kept him from getting to the free-throw line and from shooting the lights out from deep.
Harden stated, “I really just didn’t have rhythm from the beginning of the game. I felt like I was making some passes and we just didn’t knock down shots, or whatever the case may be. But as a team, as a unit, we really didn’t have a rhythm, and they capitalized on that.”
Now that the Spurs are advancing to the next round, we need Leonard more than ever. Replicating that formula against the two-time reigning conference champion Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals will not be easy. Many people didn’t expect the Spurs to make the final four in the first season since losing the franchise’s best player, Tim Duncan. Now, it’s time to show everyone the power of Spurs basketball.
Don’t miss your chance to cheer on the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. We have the best seats reserved for you. Get your tickets online right here.