Defending Rockets' Harden is a chess match worth watching

James Harden

Two years ago, YouTube user Matt Hill published his first edition of Spurs Special Forces and the internet seemed to love it. It's a clash of the styles, ideologies and the Texas derby. "It's not an easy task, but I think he got a little more comfortable as the game went on".

Coming off an embarrassing loss in Game 2, the Houston Rockets had to hold their home court in Game 3. They led the entire second half in what has been a trademark Spurs win over the last couple of decades.

Power forward LaMarcus Aldridge exploded for 26 points in Game 2 after totaling just 19 over the first two games.

The loss of Tony Parker is a major one, and nobody can replace him and his role within that system. Leonard defended Harden on an inbound with under 30-seconds left in the match, with his team 11 points up. Preventing him from striking that balance, even while running the risk of Harden exploding, renders the Rockets' offense less frightful.

The problem in Game 1 was Houston jumping out 25-13.

That isn't who the Rockets are, who they've been. Kawhi Leonard, Mills and Manu Ginobili filled in. Parker wasn't having much of the ball handling duties to begin with, but his absence was felt in the turnover department.

After Sunday's game in Houston the series moves back to San Antonio for Game 5 on Tuesday night.

Date/Time: Sunday May 7th, 2017.

But Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said he knew that "Aldridge sooner or later was gonna go off". The supporting cast is what has won them the first game in convincing fashion, but were relegated to the spectators position.

"If he's not right or he can't play, we're going to have a tough time staying with the big boys", Popovich told The Associated Press in a late March interview. Only two other Rockets players finished in double-figures. His organization of the team is really important, understanding time and score, what's going on on the court. Williams and Anderson took only 4 shots apiece, while Beverly took 13 himself and Ariza, encouraged by a strong first half shooting, took 12 threes.

That identity is being tested by the best defense in the National Basketball Association. Three different starting point guards are dealing with injuries, with varying levels of severity.

The Toronto Raptors are already down 2-0 in their series against the Cleveland Cavaliers and now they have even more bad news.

If they don't, their season will end early next week.

All season long James Harden and the Rockets have done their best to challenge the conventional wisdom that, as good as they are, they are simply not in the same class of championship-caliber team as the Golden State Warriors and Spurs. Overall, Houston is 46-44 ATS. Beverley and Gordon went a combined 6 for 23 from the field.

Vegas line: Rockets by 4.5. More importantly, he took over some of the ball handling duties vacated by Parker's injury, and according to ESPN, the Spurs scored 1.38 points per possession when Leonard brought the ball up the floor, versus 0.80 points per possession when anyone else did. Billy Donovan, the rookie coach at the time, was trying his damnedest to find ways to outsmart his counterpart, and eventually it was a giant lineup featuring Steven Adams and Enes Kanter on the floor at the same time that did the Spurs in.

"He's going to do whatever he does", Popovich said. "It's 2-1. They took back homecourt advantage, that's why it's a 7-game series". The Rockets are suddenly a desperate home team, so that's what the market is looking to account for, but the numbers don't work well in their favor. And to be fair, when Houston is shooting the way it was, very few can. One game below 100 points may be random. "We have more than enough guys in here to finish and create". I'm set at 216 for this game, so keep a close eye on the target and the odds movement to grab the bet.

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