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Spurs Rout Rockets In Houston, Heading To Conference Finals

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Shortly before Thursday’s Game 6 began, Gregg Popovich announced that Kawhi Leonard would be sitting the potential elimination game out due to a sprained left ankle he suffered in Game 5 – and for that hour or so before tip-off, it  appeared Houson had a damn good chance to take this series to a Game 7. The Spurs quieted any notion of this series returning to San Antonio early, getting off to a 61-42 lead at the half en route to a 114-75 victory.

After having Game 5 seemingly under wraps and then blowing the lead down the stretch and ultimately losing the game in overtime, the Rockets played a very unconvincing Game 6. LaMarcus Aldridge stepped up big time in Leonard’s absence, scoring 34 points and grabbing 12 rebounds.

James Harden, meanwhile, had a new playoff-low as a starter of 10 points on just 2-11 shooting and managed only seven assists while turning the ball over six times. In Harden’s defense, the Rockets as a whole shot an ice cold 28.6% from the field in last night’s game, while the Spurs shot 53.1% on the night.

The Spurs dominated in just about every statistical category last night, from outscoring the Rockets in the paint 62-18, to outrebounding them 69-44, and even having more than double the amount of assists the Rockets had (32-14).  The Rockets also turned the ball over 14 times to the Spurs’ eight turnovers on the night.

San Antonio just came out ready to play, energized right from the start. They were having no trouble moving the ball or finding the open man, and everybody was ready to step up. Jonathon Simmons, in his first career playoff start, scored 18 points on an efficient 8-12 shooting to go with four assists as he replaced Kawhi in the Spurs starting lineup. The System has always worked wonders for Gregg Popovich.

This will go down as yet another loss for Mike D’Antoni in a long-running drought against Pop in the playoffs. Popovich is now 5-0 all-time against D’Antoni in the playoffs, which is tied for the most wins by a coach in a head-to-head matchup.

“Everything falls on my shoulders. I take responsibility for it, both ends of the floor,” Harden said following the loss. He went on to say that the Rockets, “as a unit” just “didn’t have a rhythm and [the Spurs] capitalized on that.”

D’Antoni went on to praise his team for their, in D’Antoni’s words, “unbelievable year.”

“For whatever reason, this game, we didn’t have the juice and the stuff,” D’Antoni said. “It was right across the board, so we’ll figure that out, get better this summer and then come back and do it again.”

The Spurs move on to the WCF to face the Warriors, aiming to give them their first loss of the postseason – and then some. And for the Rockets and James Harden, they’ll end their season with Thursday night’s missteps being the most prominent topic of the offseason, despite having a great regular season and exceeding so many people’s expectations up to this point. That, of course, is just how the game works; and if a team doesn’t get it done in the postseason, or gets blown out in a home elimination game, then that will trump an impressive regular season in the press time and time again.

And according to Bleacher Report, Kawhi will be ready for Game 1 of the Conference Finals against Golden State after missing Game 6 of the Conference Semi-Finals nursing an ankle injury. This is good news for San Antonio, as the Spurs have an eight-point higher net rating when Kawhi is on the court versus off the court with them this postseason.

The Western Conference Finals will begin on Sunday, May 14th in Oakland at 3:30 EST on ABC.

About Brandon Wentz

Mayor of the borough of Mt. Carbon, Pennsylvania. Disappointed fan of the Phoenix Suns. Humble narcissist. Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/thebighonch

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