The San Antonio Spurs swatted aside the Houston Rockets 74-115 in Game 6 of the NBA Western Conference semi-final. With victory, the franchise is now heading to its 13th conference final and has something to prove. Not many believe the Spurs can win the title this season, but the team has just been doing what it always does, moving along nicely under the radar.
The big test will come in the Western Conference final, where the superstars of the Golden State Warriors await. If San Antonio can pass that test, then people may start believing.
As for the Houston Rockets, the front office, fans, and everybody associated with the franchise will be deciding this morning whether the 2016/2017 NBA season has been a success. Given a Play-Off run to the conference semis at the start of the season, the Rockets would have accepted that and the team has defied general expectations.
However, there is the inescapable fact that this was a chance and in the last two games the team has collapsed. Indeed, the Spurs were missing Kawhi Leonard, so the Rockets with home advantage were clear favourites in this game. San Antonio, in typical fashion, spoilt the party and put in as memorable a performance as one can remember while missing one of the NBA’s best players.
The 74-115 final score hides nothing, this was a blowout in the most dramatic sense. Houston Rockets fans may be asking what happened to James Harden, star man and door opener for the franchise. To say Harden looked sluggish is an understatement. He produced just 10 points and when needed most in the fourth quarter, he seemed to fall off a cliff.
Injury? Perhaps, but Harden says he is not carrying any niggle beyond playing through a cold in recent games. However, that cold did not stop him claiming an excellent triple-double of 33 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists in Game 5.
At 2-2 in the series less than a week ago, Harden and the Rockets were shooting for the stars. Since then, San Antonio has turned the proverbial screw and ultimately put their Texas rivals to the sword. Harden is 27-years old and there is a feeling the Houston Rockets project is getting into full swing. In other words, time is on their side, but this has been a major learning curve.
As for the Spurs, they showed how to carry the weight of missing a key man or playing with one who is under performing. In the absence of Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio looked lethal as LaMarcus Aldridge stepped up with 33 points and 12 boards.