Houston RocketsRockets Embarrass Spurs 126-99 Behind Franchise Playoff Record 22 3-PointersScott PolacekFeatured ColumnistMay 2, 2017Mark Sobhani/Getty Images
The San Antonio Spurs won 61 games this season for the second-best record in the NBA but were completely overmatched by the Houston Rockets in Game 1 of their playoff series Monday, which they lost 126-99.
Houston stole home-court advantage and a 1-0 lead at the AT&T Center behind James Harden's 20 points and 14 assists and plenty of help from his supporting cast. Six Rockets scored in double figures in the blowout win:
|Rockets' Monday Leaders|
Kawhi Leonard led the way for the Spurs with 21 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, but it was nowhere near enough to counter Houston's franchise postseason record 22 three-pointers, per Michael Wright of ESPN.
Offense Beats Defense
One of the primary storylines entering this series was the matchup between San Antonio's lockdown defense and Houston's explosive offense.
The Spurs were No. 1 in the league in defensive rating during the season, per NBA.com, while the Rockets were No. 2 in offensive rating, per NBA.com. There was nothing second-best about Houston's performance Monday.
The game was essentially over after Houston poured in 69 points for a 30-point halftime lead, and CBS Sports shared a look at the visitors' shooting:
CBS Sports @CBSSports
These Rockets highlights are incredible. https://t.co/ct41wWWRf9
5/2/2017, 2:23:28 AM
CBS Sports @CBSSports
Rockets shooting chart vibes… https://t.co/RPPSbGkYJe
5/2/2017, 2:14:52 AM
The Rockets exposed the Spurs throughout the contest, but SB Nation's Pounding the Rock cautioned the performance wasn't an aberration for a squad that drilled an NBA-best 14.4 three-pointers a night in the regular season:
Pounding the Rock @poundingtherock
You guys should stop with the "Houston can't shoot like that the whole game" because they totally can and you KNOW they can
5/2/2017, 2:12:59 AM
Part of the issue for the Spurs was keeping up with the Rockets' plethora of versatile perimeter players. Combinations featuring LaMarcus Aldridge, David Lee and Pau Gasol couldn't keep up. Netw3rk of The Ringer characterized San Antonio's matchup issues:
when the rockets go small and the spurs stay big https://t.co/Ys0rQ5dSwW
5/2/2017, 2:12:25 AM
The small lineup allowed a number of open looks for the Rockets. ESPN's Marc J. Spears reacted to the onslaught with some fashion advice:
Marc J. Spears @MarcJSpearsESPN
Rockets just launched their new hat. https://t.co/8dum5rTr7K
5/2/2017, 2:23:18 AM
The only remaining drama came at the end of the third when Houston's Nene Hilario was ejected for grabbing Dewayne Dedmon's throat, per Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, before Dedmon was ejected for two technicals.
Bleacher Report @BleacherReport
NeNe got ejected for this…🤔 https://t.co/3yFJsc1AmY
5/2/2017, 3:35:31 AM
Harden Wins MVP Battle
Harden already dispatched one MVP candidate when his Rockets beat Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round. He took the first step toward beating another Monday.
Leonard's greatest asset is his ability to dictate the game on both ends of the floor, but he never had a chance to do so in crunch time Monday. He didn't guard Harden in the early going, and critical fourth-quarter minutes never came as the visiting MVP candidate directed a victory with a double-double.
Harden could have challenged for 20 points and 20 assists if he didn't sit during the fourth.
It was hard to blame Leonard for the loss considering his near triple-double and the lack of help. Tony Parker (11 points) was the only other Spurs starter to score in double figures.
Shea Serrano of The Ringer noted Leonard should receive more credit for dragging this group to 61 wins:
Shea Serrano @SheaSerrano
i hope everyone watching the spurs in the playoffs realizes how incredible kawhi must've been in the regular season to get them to 61 wins
5/2/2017, 2:07:23 AM
Aldridge was particularly brutal for stretches against Houston's athleticism and finished with four points on 2-of-7 shooting. ESPN's Ryen Russillo responded to Aldridge's showing:
Houston playing w/ six the way Aldridge is going. He can't pass out of these shots vs. some of his matchups. Kawhi needs help.
5/2/2017, 2:33:46 AM
The Spurs will be in for a rude awakening throughout this series if Leonard doesn't receive the help Harden did Monday. They will have a chance to rectify things in Wednesday's Game 2 back at home.