James Harden of the Houston Rockets. Photo by Rolex Dela Pena/EPA
There is a certain level of consternation in the air, for both teams, when the San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets square off on Saturday evening at the AT&T Center in the first meeting this season between the two Lone Star State rivals.
Both the Spurs and Rockets come into the contest after a loss -- San Antonio has actually dropped two straight -- and concerns over their respective offensive deficiencies.
San Antonio returns home after a 95-88 loss in Wednesday at Miami in which the Spurs shot only 33.3 percent from the field despite going 13 of 32 from 3-point range. It was San Antonio's lowest field goal percentage since 2008.
Patty Mills led the Spurs (6-4) with 22 points, but was only 8 of 22 from the field, and DeMar DeRozan scored 18 points after going on 6 of 15 from the floor. Davis Bertans added 19 points for San Antonio, but LaMarcus Aldridge was held to six points on 2 of 14 shooting. Aldridge had 16 rebounds, and DeRozan took 14.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich called his team "soft, undisciplined and lacking in commitment" when discussing the loss to Miami. San Antonio conducted a rare practice the day after a road night game on Thursday.
"Nobody wants to have that type of label on you," DeRozan told the San Antonio Express News after practice on Thursday. "Granted, we played that way last game. But it's all about how you respond back to that. Man up. That's motivation there, and we can't wait to play Saturday."
The Spurs did get some needed depth in the loss to Miami when point guard Derrick White returned to the lineup. White had been named the team's starting point guard during the preseason after Dejounte Murray went down with a season-ending knee injury but promptly suffered a torn plantar fascia in his left foot and was out since Oct. 10.
White was 0 of 3 from the floor and committed two turnovers in 16 minutes in at Miami on Wednesday.
"I'm just trying to get back to the speed of things," White said. "I'm just going to get better every day. Learn from today, and next game I'll get that much better."
After playing at home on Saturday, the Spurs will contest eight of their next 10 games and 10 of their next 13 on the road.
Houston heads into the Alamo City for the finale of a five-game road trip that and on the heels of a 98-80 loss at Oklahoma City in Thursday after they opened the trip with wins in Brooklyn, Indiana and Chicago.
Saturday's contest will be the Rockets fifth in nine days.
The Rockets trailed by double-digits the entire second half and by as many as 25 points after halftime in the loss at Oklahoma City, which snapped Houston's three-game win streak.
The Rockets, who were led by James Harden's 19 points, shot just 38 percent, made only 11 of 42 3-point attempts and were outrebounded 52-29 in the defeat.
"It's tough," Harden said, after going 7 for 19 from the floor in the loss. "Any player in this league if you've got open shots and they're not falling, it's going to mess with you a little bit. That's where we take each other to kind of get each other out of that funk and just keep the positive energy going."
It was the fifth time in seven games that the high-powered Rockets failed to score at least 100 points.
"Maybe because all we do is talk about defense 24 hours," Houston coach Mike D'Antoni said after the loss to OKC. "Our offense is anemic I mean, it's bad. I don't know if we're just sagging because we don't believe in what we're (doing) I don't know. We've got to find the answers."
The two teams play again in San Antonio on Nov. 30 before squaring off on Dec. 22 and March 22 in Houston.
The Rockets took three of the four meetings from the Spurs last season. San Antonio leads the overall series between the two Lone Star State rivals 107-86, including a 66-30 edge in games played in the Alamo City.