Spurs, Rockets looking for answers as they open season series

The San Antonio Spurs will look to their home court to get back on track when they square off against the reeling Houston Rockets on Wednesday in the first of four matchups this season.

The showdown for Texas pride between the state’s first two teams has lost a bit of its luster of late, with the Spurs and Rockets missing the playoffs last season and both struggling this year while bringing losing records into action on Wednesday.

The Spurs head home after a 111-96 loss to the Knicks in New York that concluded a 1-6 road trip. Dejounte Murray led short-handed San Antonio with 24 points while Lonnie Walker IV added 15, Jakob Poeltl racked up 12 points and 10 rebounds and rookie Josh Primo scored 11 points.

Down just seven after three quarters, the Spurs lack of depth finally caught up with them in the fourth when New York scored 18 of the period’s first 20 points and waltzed to the finish line. San Antonio played without six of its regulars — including starters Derrick White, Doug McDermott and Keldon Johnson — because of COVID-19 healthy and safety protocol.

“Overall, I’m thrilled with (the way my team played),” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said after the loss. “We played hard for three quarters — we hung in. Under the circumstances, I couldn’t really expect much more. I wanted more, but it would be silly to expect more.”

The Spurs have lost three straight games, with the only victory on the seven-games-in-11-days trip coming in Boston.

“Obviously, with all the difficult times with COVID-19 or injuries or this guy playing or that guy playing, all different lineups, you know it’s out of our control,” Murray said. “There’s nothing we can do about it — just go out and play hard, and that’s really it.”

The Rockets travel west to the Alamo City after a 111-91 loss at home on Monday to surging Philadelphia, which has captured seven straight contests. Houston got 14 points each from Christian Wood and Jalen Green in the setback, with Josh Christopher scoring 13, Daniel Theis adding 12 points and Kenyon Martin Jr. hitting for 10.

The Rockets, who played without shooting guard Eric Gordon (right groin tightness), have dropped three consecutive games and 11 of their past 12.

“We had (21) turnovers and 18 assists,” Wood said. “That just can’t happen. That loses the game right there. Nobody’s happy when you lose. We just have to pick it back up and stay together with each other. Yeah, we’re a young team but we got to stop making the same mistakes and figure it out together.”

Houston plays its next five games on the road. The Rockets were seemingly out of gas after playing — and losing to — Minnesota the night before the 76ers contest.

“It didn’t seem to me that we had much juice,” Houston coach Stephen Silas said. “We didn’t have much pop. That probably had to do with (playing) last night. But it’s a back-to-back. You got to play. We’re going through struggles for sure.”

This will be the first meeting of four between the teams this year. The Spurs hold a 112-91 all-time edge over Houston, including a 70-32 record in games played in San Antonio.

–Field Level Media