SAN ANTONIO (AP) — After surviving an intense, physical battle with the Memphis Grizzlies, the San Antonio Spurs now face James Harden and the freewheeling Houston Rockets.
With a leading MVP candidate leading its offense in Harden, Houston averaged 112.8 points in its five-game series against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Rockets attempted 169 3-pointers in that series, making 34 percent, and were 134 for 168 from the free throw line.
Led by their own MVP candidate in Kawhi Leonard and a resurgent Tony Parker, the Spurs will have to match Houston’s offensive output if they can’t contain the Rockets when the series tips off Monday night in San Antonio.
“We don’t want to, but I feel if we have to, I think we’re capable,” said Spurs guard Danny Green, who will be among those trying to slow Harden. “We have enough guys that can put the ball in the basket, especially at an up-and-down-pace type of game. I think most guys prefer it. I think they’ll give us an opportunity to score more, we’ve just got to take care of the ball.”
San Antonio has not faced Houston in the playoffs since the 1995 Western Conference finals, two seasons before the Spurs drafted Tim Duncan with the first overall pick. Still, the intra-state rivals are extremely familiar with each other.
San Antonio defeated Houston three times in the regular season, but the average margin of victory was three points in the four-game series.
“We know it’s going to be tough, an extremely tough series,” Harden said. “San Antonio isn’t going to beat themselves. So, we’ve got to be mentally focused and prepared to go out there and execute every possession, every game.”
Houston has capable…