Gameday at a glance
Spurs (19-9) vs. Houston Rockets (22-4)
When, where: 8:30 p.m., Friday, Houston
TV: KENS 5, 8 p.m.
Season series: First meeting
Last meeting: Spurs 114, Rockets 75, Game 6, Western Conference semifinals, May 11, Houston
Spurs’ last game: Lost to Mavericks 95-89, Tuesday, Dallas
Rockets’ last game: Beat Hornets 108-96, Wednesday, Houston
Spurs’ last 10 games, streak: 8-2, lost one
Rockets’ last 10 games, streak: 10-0, won 11
Notable: Kawhi Leonard has scored double figures in 109 consecutive games, the longest streak for a Spur since David Robinson’s 157 from 1994-96 . . . Leonard (right quadriceps tendinopathy) and Danny Green (tightness, left groin) are probable for Friday night’s game. Kyle Anderson (left MCL sprain) is out.
The last time they faced off, the Spurs rolled to a 39-point rout of the Houston Rockets to clinch their series in the Western Conference semifinals last May.
What made the Silver and Black’s dismantling of the Rockets even more impressive was they that won Game 6 on the road without Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker, both sidelined with injuries.
Even with Leonard and Parker back, the sledding is bound to be a little more difficult for San Antonio (19-9) when it plays the red-hot Rockets (22-4) on Friday night at the Toyota Center in Houston.
The game will be the fourth of nine Spurs contests televised this season on KENS 5, the official station of the Spurs. The pregame show will air on KENS 5 at 8 p.m.
Sparked by All-Star point guard Chris Paul, acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers in an offseason trade, Houston heads into the clash with an 11-game winning streak. The streak began after Paul returned from a month-long absence after bruising his left knee. Paul has yet to lose with the Rockets, going 12-0 in games he’s played.
Paul was at the top of his game in Houston’s 108-96 home win over Charlotte on Wednesday, scoring a season-high 31 points, getting seven rebounds and dishing out 11 assists. He had a hand in 21 points in a 25-0 first-half run that turned the game in the Rockets’ favor, scoring 13 points and passing for three assists.
“It’s all good and well,” Paul said in a video on the Rockets’ website after the game, referring to the winning streak. “It’s nice. I’ve been on a team that won 17 games in a row, and it didn’t feel like that. You know what I mean?
“Just because it’s all about playing the right way. It’s all about building. You can win however many games you want in a row. It means nothing if you’re not playing the right way. But right now, we’re playing the right way and still trying to get better.”
Paul and high-scoring James Harden give Houston the best backcourt in the NBA. Harden, a finalist for the MVP Award last season, leads the league in scoring with an average of 31.6 points a game and is second in assists (9.4). Harden also averages 5.1 rebounds.
Paul is averaging 16.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 9.6 assists. The Rockets have four other players who average double figures – guard Eric Gordon (18.9), center Clint Capela (13.5), forward Ryan Anderson (11.7) and forward Trevor Ariza (11.6). Capela is the team’s leading rebounder (11). Ariza, Anderson and Capela join Paul and Harden in the starting lineup.
Sidelined since the preseason with tendinopathy in his right quadriceps, Leonard made his highly anticipated season debut in a 95-89 loss to Dallas on Tuesday night. It didn’t take long for him to shake off the rust, finishing with 13 points and six rebounds in 16 minutes.
The Spurs went 19-8 in the 27 games they played without Leonard, who hadn’t played since Game 1 of the Western Conference finals last May. Parker missed the entire preseason and the first 19 games of the season before returning to the lineup Nov. 27.
Center Pau Gasol expressed confidence earlier this week that Leonard won’t take long to mesh with his teammates and vice versa.
“With such great players, it’s a lot easier,” Gasol said. “Hopefully, we see a transition that won’t be too hard. Kawhi is a great player and he’s worked hard. We know how to play the game well and we basically play it with the same principles, regardless of who’s on the floor. But with a player the caliber of Kawhi, things should be a little smoother.”
Gasol said there was a silver lining to Leonard’s extended absence from the court: It gave other players an opportunity to play more minutes and expand their games.
“Absence of certain players, especially when they’re important ones, forces other players to step up, take more responsibility, take up a bigger role,” Gasol said. “That’s positive in that regard. The team has performed well overall this season, and we can be proud of the work that we’ve done so far.
“Now it’s about Kawhi coming back and incorporating him, and having everyone healthy and on the court and ready to play and build the transition of him into the lineup and adjust to that, and be just as good or better.”
Up next for the Spurs after Friday's game: vs. Mavericks, Saturday, 7:30 p.m., AT&T Center