Originally posted on Project Spurs  |  Last updated 12/21/11

After falling to the Houston Rockets on Saturday in their first preseason game without two members of the “Big 3,” the San Antonio Spurs are expected to have Tim Duncan and Tony Parker back in the lineup as they conclude their final preseason game in San Antonio tonight.

Though it’s just another preseason game, the Spurs and Rockets will both be looking to improve in key areas where as they can also look to advance more in areas where they saw good things from Saturday’s matchup.

Room For Improvement

Spurs: The Spurs will need more consistency on the defensive end against the big men of Houston. Granted Duncan didn’t play in the first matchup, the trio of Tiago Splitter, DeJuan Blair, and Matt Bonner allowed Houston’s Luis Scola and Jordan Hill to score a combined 37 points and grab 18 rebounds while shooting 70% in their attempts.

With Duncan back, those numbers should drop but this quadruple front court lineup must be cautious as they are very, very thin with Antonio McDyess retiring and the nightmare of big men like Scola and Hill reliving last season’s playoff exit from Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies.

Rockets: For the Rockets, head coach Kevin McHale wants to see how the team executes under pressure (via Rockets.com)

“What we don’t do and what we’ve got to get way better at is a lot of the little stuff,” said McHale. “We’ve got to cut harder, we’ve got to set better screens. These guys make shots and plays; they can play offensive basketball. They’ve got to do all the little things because when you get in dogfight games when the ball’s not going in the hole, you’ve got to do all the little stuff that’s going to help you win games … but these guys are very good at a lot of different areas of offensive basketball.”

“Hope is a good thing,”-Andy Dufrense

Spurs: For the Spurs, it was a positive light to see the second unit of rookies Kawhi Leonard and Cory Joseph take the floor with second year guard James Anderson. This triplet group combined for 10 rebounds, three steals, and one block and the young defensive players committed zero turnovers. Backup point guard T.J. Ford also had a nice showing with eight points and six assists.

Rockets: Hill had a very improved game with 17 points and 13 rebounds. If he can keep a pace like this up through the season then the Rockets might see a glimmering hope as they went through a tough offseason in the big man department as Yao Ming retired early, they almost received Pau Gasol in a trade, and Nene decided to rejoin Denver instead of joining forces with Scola in Houston.

Projected Lineups

Spurs: Starters                                                Rockets: Starters

  • C DeJuan Blair                                       C Jordan Hill
  • PF Tim Duncan                                       PF Luis Scola
  • SF Richard Jefferson                               SF Chase Budinger
  • SG Manu Ginobili                                    SG Kevin Martin
  • PG Tony Parker                                       PG Kyle Lowry

Spurs’ role players: Tiago Splitter, Kawhi Leonard, James Anderson, T.J. Ford, Matt Bonner, Cory Joseph, and Danny Green.

Rockets’ role players: Goran Dragic, Jonny Flynn, Terrence Williams, Courtney Lee, Hasheem Thabeet, and Chandler Parsons.

Injured Reserve: Spurs’ shooting guard Gary Neal is still recovering from an appendectomy procedure he received last week.

Scouting

Spurs: Keep an eye on the trio of Kawhi Leonard, James Anderson, and Cory Joseph. When the three players are inserted into the game together the defensive end of the floor looks much more active with the long arms of Leonard and Anderson combined with Joseph’s foot speed. On offense, Leonard and Joseph will both look to improve on their catch-and-shoot ability as Anderson will continue to show he can produce by putting the ball on the floor and taking his defender to the rim.

Rockets: Rookie Chandler Parsons is expected to make his debut for the Rockets out of the University of Florida. Parsons is a player who doesn’t look very athletic but is quick and can pass, drive, and shoot for being a tall small forward. Here are some of his highlights while a Gator.

What to expect

Expect another close game from both ball clubs as the Spurs and Rockets coaches will continue to work on different lineups as this is their final preparation before the regular season kicks off next week. Last time, the Spurs fell behind by 20 points but clawed their way back into the game, I don’t expect such a drop-off with Duncan and Parker back in the lineup tonight.

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