The San Antonio Spurs will be rested and ready to break a lengthy losing streak when they host the Houston Rockets on Thursday in the first matchup this season between the Lone Star State rivals.
The problem with that scenario is that San Antonio is getting the Rockets at a time when Houston is playing its best basketball of the season.
The Spurs haven't played since Sunday, when they were caught short-handed in a 133-95 loss at home to Phoenix, the Western Conference leader. San Antonio was led by Keldon Johnson's 27 points while Devin Vassell had 14, Keita Bates-Diop scored 12 and Tre Jones added 10 in the setback.
The Spurs scored 11 points in the second quarter and just 41 points in the first half, both season lows for the team. San Antonio also surrendered 71 points to Phoenix in the first half, the most it has allowed this year. All that added up to a 30-point halftime deficit from which the Spurs would not recover.
San Antonio needed the break to heal and get its collective act together. The Spurs played without starters Jakob Poeltl (right knee) and Jeremy Sochan (right quad) and key reserves Josh Richardson and Doug McDermott (both with right ankle sprains). Coach Gregg Popovich also missed the game, his second in a row, after he underwent a minor medical procedure last week.
The Spurs have dropped 11 straight games, their worst losing streak since 1989 when they lost 13 straight. San Antonio has not won since Nov. 11 and has just one victory in its past 17 outings, a stretch that's seen them plummet to the bottom of the West after a once-promising 5-2 start.
"Nobody is going to feel sorry for us," Johnson said of the Spurs' swoon. "Nobody is going to hold our hand and baby us. This is the NBA."
The Rockets have found their stride of late, winning two of their past three games and four of their last seven to climb out of the cellar in the West. Houston's most recent outing produced a 132-123 double-overtime win at home over Philadelphia on Monday in which Jalen Green scored 27 points and Kevin Porter Jr. added 24.
Porter, Eric Gordon (14 points) and Jabari Smith Jr. (16 points, 11 rebounds) poured in 3-pointers in the second extra period to help Houston seal the win. Tari Eason had 18 points off the bench and Kenyon Martin Jr. hit for 14 for the Rockets.
Houston coach Stephen Silas lauded his team for doing the little things it needed to beat the 76ers.
"Any time that you spend as much time as we do teaching and developing you want to see the fruits of that effort," Silas explained.
"With that comes not only confidence for the players, but confidence in how we do things, in our culture. When you kind of fight through these games and beat some good teams, you're like, 'Oh, we're moving in the right direction.'"
The Rockets open a season-long, seven-game homestand on Sunday against Milwaukee, lasting through Dec. 23 following Thursday's trip to San Antonio.
--Field Level Media