Spurs, Rockets: A Generational Shift?


VIDEO: Rockets race to second win against Spurs in San Antonio

SAN ANTONIO — This is how you notice the generations changing around the Christmas tree.

In snapshots.

One year your little brother’s feet can’t reach the pedals on his new bike and, in what seems like the next, he’s resting an elbow on top of your head as you stand side by side in the photo.

Growth and championships are often measured by inches. Nobody knows that better than the Spurs.

All those little things from the 28 seconds in Miami last June are looming larger each time they step onto the court against one of the contenders in the Western Conference this season.

The Rockets may or may not yet be a real contender, depending on the day of the week or their interest in being professionals who show up with the same level of commitment each game.

For a holiday night, at least, the most noticeable difference wasn’t those form-fitting jerseys with sleeves, but the way the Rockets strutted into the AT&T Center and did everything this side of ripping the drumstick off the turkey and clubbing the Spurs over the head with it.

It was the difference in 3-point shooting, in having a fourth-quarter closer in James Harden, a defender in Jeremy Lin who wrapped up Tony Parker in pretty paper with a bow, an inside tandem of Dwight Howard and Terrence Jones and in energy.

Enough energy to light up every tree in town.

The Rockets, when they have their heads on straight, are as powerful and devastatingly effective as a blizzard and they buried everything about three feet under with an opening quarter of howling wind.

Meanwhile, the Spurs are looking like one of the polar ice caps that is thawing and melting from climate change.

This is only the second time in Tim Duncan’s NBA career that began in 1997-98 that the Rockets have swept the Spurs on their home floor in the season series.

“We didn’t give very good performances,” said San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich. “You can live with that from time to time. Nobody’s going to play perfect every night. But you can’t combine poor performances with a lack of physicality and a lack of discipline. They whipped us. They whipped us good. That’s an embarrassing loss.”

That’s also becoming a habit.

Despite their gaudy overall record, the Spurs are now 0-7 on the season against the top six teams they’ve faced, giving up 115, 112, 111, 111, 115, 113 and 94 points.

In their four home losses this season — Rockets (2), Thunder and Pacers — they have trailed by double digits every time and were down by at least 18 in three of them. It was the 10th time in their last 14 games that the Spurs have given up at least 100.

For the second time this season the Rockets were the more aggressive, more assertive, more enthusiastic, just plain better team and one full of enough youth and vigor to never have to bother to look back over their shoulders.

Except those same shoulders are carrying around losses to the lowly likes of Philly, Utah and Sacramento.

A lack of maturity or understanding?

“A little bit of both,” said Harden, who poured in 16 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter. “We’ve had quite a bit of injuries coming in and out of the lineup. We’re a fairly new team. So the more we can get our reps in with everybody available the better off we’ll be.”

Or it could more likely be a matter of the Rockets simply not bringing the same level of concentration into every game.

“We understand how good of a team San Antonio is and we want to hit first every time we come here,” said Howard. “We like the rivalry that we’re trying to establish with these guys. We look up to this team. We want to be like them one day. This is a great team. We want to play great.

“We just gotta be more consistent. It’s something we’re all working on as a team … It’s very important. We can beat a San Antonio and lose a couple of games that we should win.”

For years the Spurs have kept holding open the window on a championship era that was said to be closing and last season perhaps convinced everyone that the Big Three of Duncan, Parker and Manu Ginobili can grow older than Methuselah and never fade away. Then there is this.

For weeks now, the Rockets have shown fleeting glimpses of how often they can stomp down on the accelerator, how good they can be, how far they can go. Until the next night when they just don’t.

Sometimes a game is just a game and sometimes it’s a snapshot that shows generations changing.

23 Comments

  1. Sharpie says:

    Apparently people don’t really realize that the Spurs never go all out during the regular season. The Spurs use the regular season like other people use the preseason. They save their best stuff for the playoffs. There is no reason to show a potential playoff opponent your best stuff in the regular season so they can go back and study you at the end of the year, especially since a top 4 seed is locked. Also I like how the author mentioned the fact that Parker was not 100% for that game and that he was coming back after missing a few games due to injury….Ohh, my mistake he didn’t mention that. Anyway I wish the best of luck to the Rockets and Mavs. Hopefully one of the three brings another Championship back to Texas. Especially since football season was such a let down.

  2. backtorelaity says:

    52 MORE GAMES TO BE PLAYED THAN COME THE SERIOUS MATTERS
    AND SOME @#?!%$ reporters COULD ONLY WRITE @#?!%$ REPORTS

    BLA BLA BLA BLA BLA BLA

  3. okc2014 says:

    I’m rooting for the Rockets all the way. Spurs are boring to watch. But I must admit, I don’t think it’s fair that LInsanity got chosen over Chris Paul, Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook for all stars. Who voted for him??????????

    • aha! says:

      Obviously you haven’t seen the Spurs in years. The ball movement, the transition, the Spurs can gun with the best teams. Lin has 1.35 billion potential voters in China alone each year. The all-star game is a popularity contest, it has nothing to do with skills.

  4. JOHNNY says:

    GENERATIONAL SHIFT? PLEASE!!!! ALL OF YOU HAVE BEEN WRITTING THE SPURS OFF FOR YEARS, YET THEY ARE STILL THE BEST IN THE WEST. 2 GAMES ARE NOT GOING TO BREAK OR MAKE THE SPURS. WHEN IT COMES TO PLAYOFFS TIME, POP WILL MAKE THE RIGHT ADJUSTMENT FOR EACH ROUND.

  5. OKC says:

    I’m way more into the budding rivalry between GS and the Clippers… It’s still early and they are already getting in fights after the game lol. I hate Matt Barnes…

    • Sharpie says:

      Yeah their rivalry is very entertaining. However I don’t think either one has much of a chance to make it to the finals. Even if one of the two managed to they have 0% chance of winning it. I would love to see a first round 4-5 match up for them. OKC and GS would be another fun playoff series. It probably wouldn’t be as good a series though. I imagine every game would be close but I think OKC would beat them in at most 6.

  6. lol says:

    All Houston miss is depthy. They have it but they don’t use it in Omer Asik. He wants to leave which I understand but they have to get a transfer ASAP in my eyes. Rockets’ starting-line-up is great; good enough to be in the top 3 of the WESTERN in my eyes, they just miss that PF who helps D12. They need someone who has a midrange shot atleast, can space the floor and is atleast 80% FT-shooter. Terence Jones is a really good player but you need someone better than him to start; you need a guy who’d just smash those mid-range shots and makes his free throws. Rebouning is important too but T.Jones could do that from the bench.

    I know it’s hard to get a good player but Rockets are just 1 piece away from a really dangerous contender.

  7. phil says:

    steppx…..did you really watch the game? Tony Parker is an elite scorer. Adequate defensive effort will NOT hold him. Give credit where credit is due. Lin used all his energy to stop Parker. SA’s offense never really flowed well while Parker was in the game. Normally, he is instrumental for them. Most of SA’s points came from second effort. SA is an elite team and will be in contention. Any team with Parker and Duncan is a potential championship team, even now. Yesterday, give credit to the Houston players.

  8. D Balls says:

    When your HOF PG and leading scorer on your team, Tony Parker, got shut down by J Lin, it’s over.

    • Johnny says:

      Really?he just got back from an injury come on man. The clippers beat twice the spurs in the regular season two years ago, the spurs swept in the playoffs so come on man

    • Sharpie says:

      What about the 27 he dropped in the first game? Remember? The game where he wasn’t injured and was playing at 100%.

  9. Lock Down says:

    Who says Jeremy can’t defend?

    – Parker

  10. as says:

    you’re a really good writer, flan

  11. steppx says:

    stunningly dumb article. ONE game and its a generational shift. Check the records. ANd Lin is hardly an elite defender. Try adequate. Barely. Houston is going to win some games by shooting a lot of threes. The problem is nobody has been able to do that over a 7 game stretch. Defense wins post season. That hasnt changed. Slow it down, execute. And Houston is a bad defensive team. Dwight has his moments, but he has yet to string them together. Maybe he will. But honestly, sports writers have deadlines and i know they have to run around inventing topics. But this is pretty weak.

    • BB gamer says:

      Spurs lost to the Rockets not just 1 game but 2 games on home floor.

      • Sharpie says:

        You mean the game where the ref called the Dwight foul late and awarded Harden with 3 free throws, instead of 2 for Howard? So they won one game from a blown call and another game when Parker was coming back from an injury and not 100%. You also failed to take into account that the Spurs are getting pretty old so they coast until they get to the playoffs.

  12. dustydreamnz says:

    It is alarming how the Spurs keep losing to the good teams but you should never write them off. Well coached, plenty of experience and a well balanced side.

  13. exiled says:

    Great article, i like the well desreved respect the spur gets from the rocket’s players