HOUSTON ROCKETS (18-11)
at SAN ANTONIO SPURS (22-6)
Tip-off: Wednesday, 8:00 p.m. ET
Line: San Antonio -7, Total: 210
The Rockets attempt to push their way up the Western Conference standings when they visit the division rival Spurs on Wednesday night.
Playing in the West can always be tough, but Houston has put together multiple superstars in an attempt to compete with the likes of the Thunder, Trail Blazers, Spurs and Clippers. So far on the season, the Rockets have gone 2-3 SU against those teams, which are the top four in the conference right now. The Spurs have continued to be one of the best NBA teams despite the ages of their star players, but have lost their past three games when facing top teams (Thunder, Clippers, Pacers). When these two clubs squared off in San Antonio on Nov. 30, the Rockets took down the Spurs, 112-106, dealing them their first home loss of the season. San Antonio shot an impressive 48.4% from the field in the game, but was outrebounded 54-33 (12-4 on offensive glass) and gave up 13 three-pointers. This series has been tight recently with the Spurs holding an 11-9 SU advantage with the Rockets having the 11-9 ATS edge. Rockets star SG James Harden (ankle) has been struggling to stay on the court lately with a high ankle sprain, but both he and PG Jeremy Lin (back) are expected to play in this game for the Rockets.
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SG James Harden has become an elite scorer in the NBA and he had a tremendous game against the Spurs earlier this year (31 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists). He also did well against them in three games last season, averaging 30.3 PPG (48.1% FG), 6.0 APG and 5.7 RPG. His career numbers in this matchup (19.2 PPG, 4.8 RPG) over 13 games (4 starts) were mostly with the Thunder when he was coming off the bench. C Dwight Howard dropped 19.5 PPG with 16.0 RPG against the Spurs last season as a member of the Lakers and posted a double-double (13 points, 11 rebounds) when he faced them last month. Overall in his 19 career starts against the San Antonio, Howard has 18.7 PPG (57.5% FG) with 13.7 RPG, but has shot only 55.4% from the free-throw line. PG Jeremy Lin was unable to play the last time these two teams met, but did well against them in four games last season when he scored 17.3 PPG (44.4% FG) and dished out 6.0 APG. SF Chandler Parsons was big with 25 points and five assists earlier this season against San Antonio, but has averaged only 13.0 PPG over nine career games in this series. PF Terrence Jones had a double-double (10 points, 16 rebounds) in the win against the Spurs last month, and will need another big performance to help the team to a second win in the season series.
The Spurs still rely on PG Tony Parker to lead their team and he had 27 points (13-of-27 FG) to go along with eight assists and six rebounds earlier this season against the Rockets. He averaged 24.5 PPG (57.6% FG) and 9.0 APG in four meetings last season and has 17.5 PPG with 6.9 APG over 44 career starts against Houston. PF Tim Duncan has needed to rest occasionally, but has made the most of his playing time and scored 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds earlier in the season while adding three blocks. He has a long history against the Rockets and has averaged a double-double (20.1 PPG, 10.3 RPG) in 61 career games against them. While SG Manu Ginobili has not had quite as much experience against Houston (37 games, 18 starts), he has been solid, scoring 14.9 PPG (45.0% FG) and making 39.6% of his shots from beyond the three-point line. He had nine points and his only double-digit assist performance (11 assists) when he faced the Rockets this season. SF Kawhi Leonard has struggled in seven games (6 starts) when facing Houston and has scored only 7.1 PPG (37.5% FG) with 5.6 RPG in the series. SG Marco Belinelli scored 18 points while going 4-for-6 from behind the arc in the Spurs' loss to the Rockets this season and will look to repeat that performance on Christmas Day.