Rockets' 22 3-pointers dismantle Spurs, 126-99 in Game 1

Take last season against the Oklahoma City Thunder, for instance.

Popovich has earned his reputation as one of the best coaches in the history of the sport, presiding over 20 consecutive 50-win seasons (or, in the case of the 50-game season in 1999, a season well ahead of a 50-win pace), winning five championships and reaching six NBA Finals. "But we'll be a lot better on Wednesday".

"We are going to have to be in sync and focused like this in every game", Harden said. The Spurs largely took it away from the Rockets during the regular season, limiting them to 29.2 percent shooting. They are an unstoppable offensive force. He's basically their point guard when we trapped Isaiah - he gave the ball to Al and he did a great job finding teammates, making plays down the stretch. But San Antonio has to regain the higher ground in the matchups its favored in, because Houston is too good to trade matchups with.

While the hot shooting wasn't completely unexpected from the explosive Rockets, the defense was.

A lot was made about James Harden battling fellow MVP candidate Russell Westbrook in the last round but there is no rest for the tired as he goes up against another one in the Spurs' Kawhi Leonard. After the Rockets' opening barrage of threes, the Spurs had to run them off the line, leaving the interior vulnerable - as in this play where LaMarcus Aldridge keeps Eric Gordon from shooting a three, but yields a gimme instead.

This series is going to come down to a few different variables, but supporting casts will make the biggest difference. The Rockets are scoring 112.8 points per game in these playoffs, second only to the Golden State Warriors (119.5).

The second-round series between the Spurs and Rockets looked set to be one of the best of the postseason. As Zach Lowe noted earlier today, Houston didn't shoot that well against San Antonio in the regular season. if Leonard is simply forced to react, that's a waste of his talents.

Spurs: San Antonio's largest postseason defeat under Popovich was a 111-72 defeat to the Lakers on May 25, 2001, in Game 3 of a four-game sweep in the West finals. They have bigs to hold their own in the interior, but most important is the luxury of having two premier perimeter defenders on the floor: Leonard, who will be a megastar for years to come, and Danny Green, who remains one of the better lockdown defenders in the game despite a drop-off from the offense he has given the team in previous postseasons.

San Antonio outscored the Rockets 24-15 in the second quarter to cut the deficit to 7 points at the half.

The 6-foot-11 forward was 2 for 7 from the field and did not attempt any free throws. "Obviously one might think we have an advantage in that area and that didn't work out for us at all". "I have to ask for the ball more for sure".

"I was trying to rush", Aldridge said. "Tonight I was in a rush".

Dewayne Dedmon and James Harden were in each others' face, leading to Nene grabbing Deadmon by the throat and getting ejected from the game.

"We always put a lot of effort in not fouling guys", Tony Parker said after practice on Sunday. I understand that talking about like Enes (Kanter) and Steven (Adams), and those guys are a big part of our success.

The Spurs' 126-99 loss to Houston to start the Western Conference semifinals was their worst ever under Popovich in a series opener.

The San Antonio Spurs lost in eyebrow-raising fashion to the Houston Rockets in Game 1 of the second round on Monday.

So really, the question going into the series isn't whether the Spurs can handle Harden, but if the Rockets can step up as a team and if Harden can get over the hump and conquer San Antonio's defense.

The Spurs finished with the second-best record in the National Basketball Association and won the season series against the Rockets, three games to one.