Up by nine points in the fourth quarter, the Houston Rockets had a golden opportunity to win Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals in San Antonio and take a 3-2 series lead over the Spurs on Tuesday. Instead, San Antonio battled back, forced overtime, and won 110-107.
It was a crushing loss for Houston.
“The Rockets flat out didn’t execute down the stretch in the fourth quarter and in overtime,” Rockets radio voice Craig Ackerman said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “Neither team shot it particularly well in the fourth quarter, but the Spurs shot it terribly. The Rockets had multiple opportunities, even before it came down to the final possessions of regulation and into overtime to put that game away. They just didn’t capitalize, made some bad decisions, a lot of stagnation on offense, some bad turnovers. They missed an opportunity, especially with Kawhi Leonard out of that last 30, 35 seconds of regulation and all of overtime with his injuries, and they just missed an opportunity to take a 3-2 series lead with a chance to close out on Thursday.”
Leonard had 22 points and 15 rebounds in 38 minutes but exited with an ankle injury. He insists he’ll play in Game 6 in Houston.
The Rockets, meanwhile, ran out of gas at the end. Mike D’Antoni played just seven guys, as four of Houston’s starters played 40+ minutes.
“It didn’t surprise me that Mike stuck with that rotation,” Ackerman said. “I thought it was going to be a surprise anyway if anybody outside of that seven got into that game. Were the Rockets tired? Yes. But the Spurs were, too. They made enough of the plays late in the game. The Rockets didn’t. They just didn’t do enough to win the game with both teams tired on the floor. I know that the seven-man thing is a fairly big story, but for me personally, I don’t think it was that much of a difference over the rotation that Gregg Popovich ultimately played for San Antonio.”
Houston must win Game 6 on Thursday to force a Game 7 in San Antonio on Sunday. The key for the Rockets? Make threes. Houston went 36-5 this season when hitting at least 15 three-pointers.
“When they’re hitting their threes,” Ackerman said, “they’re basically unbeatable.”