Spurs (37-29) vs. Rockets (52-14)

When, where: Monday, 7 p.m., Houston

Season series: Rockets lead 2-0

Last meeting: Rockets 102, Spurs 91, Feb. 1, AT&T Center

Spurs’ last game: Lost to Thunder 104-94, Saturday, Oklahoma City

Rockets’ last game: Beat Mavericks 105-82, Sunday, Dallas

Spurs’ last 10 games, streak: 2-8, lost two

Rockets’ last 10 games, streak: 9-1, won one

Spurs’ injury report: LaMarcus Aldridge (right knee soreness), Manu Ginobili (rest) and Kawhi Leonard (rehabbing quad injury) are out for Monday’s game.

Notable: The Spurs are 3-10 in their last 13 games and 2-5 since the All-Star break . . . San Antonio is seventh in the Western Conference standings, only a half-game ahead of a three-way tie for eighth.


Remember the Rubik's Cube from the 1970s? Just when you thought you had solved the puzzle after so much twisting, turning and, yes, frustration, one side still wouldn't line up right.

That must be what Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has felt like this season. Just when it appears as though the Silver and Black will have every player on their roster available to play, they lose another one to injury.

While All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard reportedly could return to the lineup Thursday in a home game against New Orleans, All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge is sidelined with a sore right knee.

Aldridge, who scored only 11 points in a 104-94 loss to Oklahoma City on Saturday, is listed as out for Monday night's road game against Western Conference leader Houston (52-14). Veteran guard Manu Ginobili (rest) also won't play against the Rockets, who have won 18 of their last 19 games.

Houston guard James Harden, who leads the NBA in scoring with a 31.1 average, is expected to play against San Antonio after missing Sunday's 105-82 win at Dallas with a sore left knee.

The Spurs (37-29) are in seventh place in the West, only a half-game ahead of a three-way tie for 10th. They have gone 3-10 in their last 13 games and are 2-5 since the All-Star break. The downward spiral has put San Antonio's streak of 20 playoff seasons in jeopardy. The Silver and Black haven't missed the postseason since the 1996-97 season, when Tim Duncan was a senior at Wake Forest.

Aldridge's subpar game in OKC came two nights after he scored 30 points in a 110-107 road loss to defending league champion Golden State. He missed a game against the Los Angeles Lakers on March 3 with a sprained right ankle, but he returned against Memphis last Monday.

ESPN's Lisa Salters reported before Saturday night's game in OKC that Leonard could be available to play against New Orleans on Thursday at the AT&T Center. Other reports have him returning Tuesday when the Silver and Black start a six-game home stand against Orlando.

Leonard has struggled to overcome a lingering quad injury since the preseason, missing all but nine of San Antonio's 66 games. He didn't make his season debut until Dec. 12, and played for a month before being shut down again. Leonard has missed 22 consecutive games since he last played on Jan. 13.

Sharpshooting Houston Rockets guard James Harden leads the NBA in scoring with an average of 31.1 points per game and also is No. 1 in three-pointers made (230) and average free throws made (8.6).
(Antonio Morano / Special to, KENS

Leonard told the media last week that he expected to return to the lineup "soon," although he didn't give a target date.

“Obviously, I’m a competitor,” Leonard said. “If I could play, I’m going to go out and play like I did in the nine games, just to test it out. It just wasn’t where we wanted it to be.”

Starting center Pau Gasol addressed the challenge of playing without Leonard and Aldridge after the Spurs fell to the Lakers 116-112 at the AT&T Center.

"Right now we're missing a couple of guys that are important, one that we've missed all year and another one that's had an incredible year in LaMarcus," Gasol said. "Down the stretch, when the games are close, the team is used to putting the ball in the hands of those players, and they're not there.

"Our margin of error is very, very small because of our situation and our dynamic right now. We've just got to minimize mistakes. We've got to be really sharp, as much as we can, so we put ourselves in better positions."

A six-time All-Star, Aldridge has carried the Spurs in his third season with the franchise, averaging 22.2 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists. He has anchored the team on both ends of the court, and has often been praised by Popovich for his defense.

Even with Aldridge in the lineup, the Silver and Black would be underdogs against the Rockets, who lead the season series between the Interstate 10 rivals 2-0. Without him, the challenge gets considerably tougher for San Antonio. Thirteen of the Spurs' last 16 games are against playoff contenders.

Houston leads Golden State (51-16) by 1.5 games in the highly competitive Western Conference. Portland (40-26) is third and No. 4 New Orleans (38-28) is one up on Minnesota (39-29) in the loss column.

Up next for the Spurs after Monday's game: vs. Orlando, Tuesday, 7:30 p.m., AT&T Center