A day after reportedly agreeing a franchise-altering trade, the Houston Rockets travel to face the San Antonio Spurs for the first of two match-ups between the teams.
Houston sent shockwaves throughout the NBA on Wednesday as they agreed to ship James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets as part of a four-team trade.
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The Rockets reportedly received guard Victor Oladipo from the Indiana Pacers, guard Dante Exum from the Cleveland Cavaliers, forward Rodions Kurucs of the Nets, three first-round draft picks from the Nets, one unprotected 2022 first-round pick from the Cleveland Cavaliers (via the Milwaukee Bucks) and the right to swap four first-round picks with the Nets.
Live NBA: Houston @ San Antonio 16.01
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The blockbuster trade came less than 24 hours after Harden declared that the Rockets were “not even close, honestly” to the league’s top competition. Houston are coming off back-to-back blowout losses at home to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Christian Wood led the Rockets with 18 points in Tuesday’s loss, and Harden scored 16 points but made just five of his 16 shots. Eric Gordon and DeMarcus Cousins had 13 points each, Ben McLemore hit for 11 and John Wall scored 10 for Houston.
“I love this city,” Harden said. “I’ve literally done everything that I can. The situation is crazy. It’s something I don’t think can be fixed, so … yeah… thanks.”
The Spurs head home off perhaps their most complete game of the year to face the struggling Rockets. They won four times on their recent five-game road trip, which wrapped up on Tuesday with a 112-102 victory in Oklahoma City.
San Antonio won despite the absence of leading scorer DeMar DeRozan, who missed his second straight game for personal reasons.
“It was a great win, 4-1 on the road trip, a few guys missing, and they dug down deep and played a really good team,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.
“(They) had to work and grind it out, especially on the last game of a road trip, so I was really proud of them.”
Lonnie Walker IV led San Antonio with 24 points in the win over the Thunder, with Keldon Johnson hitting for 18, Patty Mills scoring 17 points, Dejounte Murray hitting for 16, LaMarcus Aldridge pouring in 13 points and taking 10 rebounds, and Rudy Gay tallying 12 points off the bench.
Balanced scoring has been one of the keys for San Antonio during their recent surge, as has strong defense and taking care of the basketball.
The Spurs committed a season-low four turnovers and turned 13 Oklahoma City turnovers into 26 points in Tuesday’s win.
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“If I (could), I’d bottle it,” Popovich said about the team’s low turnovers. “It’s not like we’ve done no-turnover drills. They have just taken care of the ball really well. We have done nothing special. We’ve called a few more plays to get them a little bit more organised, so it is a little bit less frantic than in the past.”
Danuel House missed his fifth straight game for Houston and was not with the team on Tuesday because of health and safety protocols. Houston play five of their next six games on the road.
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