Two of the NBA’s powerhouses will meet in the Western Conference Semi-Finals when the San Antonio Spurs and the Houston Rockets face off.
The Spurs have been perennial contenders for the NBA Championship under the tenure of Gregg Popovich, but have ventured into the post-season for the first time without future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan.
Kawhi Leonard will lead the Spurs into battle against one of the most potent offenses in the league, including superstar and MVP candidate James Harden.
Harden has already bested Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder to reach this stage of the playoffs, but will need to raise his game to overcome the challenges that will be posed by Popovich and the Spurs.
San Antonio were made to battle their way past the plucky Memphis Grizzlies in the first round, although they were able to up the ante when necessary to advance.
Both of these teams know that the Golden State Warriors are likely to be on the agenda in Western Conference Finals, making it a priority to enter those contests as fresh as possible.
We’ll now break down how both teams reached the last four and look at the betting options
The Spurs entered the playoffs on the back of a three-game losing streak, with Popovich keen to limit his starters’ minutes before the first round against the Grizzlies.
San Antonio suffered as a result of their lack of rhythm in the opening quarter of the contest, with Memphis putting them on the back foot to take a 30-25 lead.
However, Leonard led the rally beginning in the second quarter, driving his side to a comfortable victory at the AT&T Center with a 32-point performance.
The Spurs controlled the second game of the series, despite a slight fight back from Memphis in the third quarter. Popovich’s men regained their command in the fourth, securing a 96-82 victory to take a 2-0 series lead.
Memphis rocked the Spurs by mounting their comeback into the series, producing an excellent defensive display to limit Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge. Mike Conley took over the contest with a 24-point outing putting San Antonio to the sword in a 105-96 win for the Grizzlies.
David Fizdale’s men continued to thwart the Spurs and put forward another impressive offensive display, with Conley once again leading the way with 35 points. Leonard did his utmost with a 43-point outing, but it was not enough to stop Popovich’s side falling to an overtime defeat.
Needing inspiration to pull ahead in the series once again, Tony Parker rolled back the years with six assists to support Aldridge and Leonard. The Spurs’ rhythm returned and they were able to ease to a 13-point victory at AT&T Center.
Leonard and Aldridge combined once again to see their side over the line, coming to the fore at the vital moments in the fourth quarter to secure the win on the road.
The Rockets finished narrowly off the pace of the Warriors and the Spurs at the top of the Western Conference, with 55 wins under their belt.
Mike D’Antoni’s men were handed the task of stopping Westbook and the Oklahoma City Thunder, who almost toppled the Warriors in the Conference Finals last term – albeit with Kevin Durant on the roster.
Houston would need a strong start to the set the tone for the series, and that’s just what they got in their opener at the Toyota Center. Harden took the game by the scruff of the neck with a 37-point performance, with a solid complement outing from Ryan Anderson to deliver an emphatic win.
Westbrook responded to the Rockets and Harden’s strong performance with a fast start in game two. The 27-year-old was a force across the court notching 51 points, but even that was not enough as Harden and company found their gear late in the contest to earn a four-point victory.
On the road the Rockets were finally undone by Westbrook’s brilliance as the point guard led his side in scoring, rebounds and assists. The Thunder started the stronger of the sides and not even a 44-point performance from Harden could dig the Rockets out of the hole.
Houston needed to alleviate the pressure on Harden and it came from an unlikely source as Nene was the star of the show in game four. He led the team in scoring and rebounds, hitting a number of critical shots in the fourth quarter to snatch the victory away from the Thunder.
D’Antoni’s men were in completed their victory in game five at the Toyota Center. Westbrook scored 47 points, but another late surge – this time led by Harden pulled the Rockets to the decisive triumph.
The two teams are very familiar with each other due to the fact that they both play in the Southwest Division. They met four times over the course of the regular season, with the Spurs coming out 3-1 in those contests, all of which were high-scoring affairs and decided by two points on three occasions.
As a result, expect the series to be a tight affair – with the teams boasting a lot of similarities. Both have one superstar with Harden leading the way for the Rockets and Leonard for the Spurs.
The coaches of both teams have experience, although few will argue with San Antonio leading in that particular category due to the brilliance of Popovich.
Therefore anticipate the Spurs to have a solid plan in place to attempt to limit the scoring prowess of Harden in the series, forcing the Rockets’ support players to beat them.
Should Houston employ the same strategy against Leonard – Aldridge, Parker and Pau Gasol should provide enough relief to guide Popovich’s men to the Conference Finals. Therefore backing the Spurs to win the series at odds of -256 with Sportsbet Sportsbook is the punt to take for the victor.
Predicting the correct score is intriguing as Harden could go off and stun the Spurs should they allow him to control the court.
The best odds are on a 4-2 win for San Antonio at +420 – factoring in the victory for Popovich’s men, but also two special outings from Harden, while also take the series to be decided in six games punt at +200 .
San Antonio Spurs To Beat Houston Rockets
San Antonio Spurs To Beat Houston Rockets 4-2
Series To Be Decided In Six Matches
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