Rockets vs. Spurs Christmas Day 2013: Complete Analysis, Predictions

John WilmesContributor IDecember 24, 2013

SAN ANTONIO, TX - November 30: Tim Duncan #21 of the San Antonio Spurs shoots against Dwight Howard #12 of the Houston Rockets at the AT&T Center on November 30, 2013 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photos by D. Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty Images)
D. Clarke Evans/Getty Images

The Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs stand on opposite ends of the Western Conference fire.

Sophomore gunners and stalwart seniors, respectively, the two teams also play with very different styles and disciplines. While the Spurs smother teams on both ends of the floor with their overwhelming network of rehearsed team motions, the Rockets eschew such order for chaos and high-volume shooting near the rim and from beyond the arc.

The way the two play each other on Jesus’ birthday bonanza just may enlighten us on how one of the more exciting bouts of this year’s playoffs goes.


When: Wednesday, Dec. 25 (Christmas Day) at 8 P.M. ET

Where: AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX

Watch: ESPN

Live Stream: WatchESPN


Spurs Injury Report

 None to report


Rockets Injury Report

G James Harden, Probable, Sprained Ankle

C Omer Asik, Out, Thigh Contusion



Spurs Player to Watch: Kawhi Leonard

You've probably heard of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker. Those three have been heading up the Spurs for around a decade now, winning multiple championships and not once missing the NBA playoffs together.

Now they’re passing the torch to Leonard, who was so fabulous in last year’s NBA Finals that many suggested he be the series’ MVP in the event of the Spurs winning.

He's grown from a spot shooter in the corner (where he's deadly from beyond the arc) into perhaps the most important shot creator on his team. Watching this fearless youngster take it to the rim is a true pleasure.


Rockets Player to Watch: James Harden

Few players are as fun to watch as James Harden.

His much-buzzed beard draws eyeballs to him at first, but everyone sticks around for good once they see his nasty footwork and shooting from deep.

The Rockets' playing style dictates that the fast break is of utmost importance, and no player capitalizes on this ethos more than Harden. Once his powerful, charging frame gets down the court, he can two-step through or around seemingly any amount of defenders still in his way.


Key Matchup: Tim Duncan vs. Dwight Howard

SAN ANTONIO, TX - OCTOBER 24: Tim Duncan #21 of the San Antonio Spurs gaurds Dwight Howard #12 of the Houston Rockets during the last preseason game at the AT&T Center on October 24, 2013 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges an
D. Clarke Evans/Getty Images

The Rockets' most important player this year—the one who has many calling them true playoff contenders—is Dwight Howard.

Arguably the best center in the game, Howard will take the team's defense and half-court offense to levels unimaginable in last year's campaign.

But no man is better suited to stand in his way than Tim Duncan—still one of the best big men in the league after over 15 years of NBA service. He is, seemingly, impervious to time.

More importantly, he's got the wits and wherewithal to stymie Howard in the post on both ends. Unless Howard can prove otherwise, the Rockets may not have enough to overcome San Antonio.



SAN ANTONIO, TX - NOVEMBER 30: Chandler Parsons #25 of the Houston Rockets dunks against the San Antonio Spurs on November 30, 2013 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or
Chris Covatta/Getty Images

This game could shake out any number of ways, but the circumstances of the regular season favor the Rockets. They won the last matchup between the two, and their playing style typically overwhelms teams not similarly equipped.

Without the room for adjustments open to them in a seven game series, the Spurs should be counted among those teams. The Rockets' stubborn obsession with their chaotic full-court offense can certainly be turned against them, but it takes some calculating that Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is likely to get to at a later juncture in the season.

Rockets 110 - Spurs 103