LaMarcus Aldridge paced a balanced and breathtaking offensive effort, and the short-handed Spurs rolled into the Western Conference finals with a 114-75 dismantling of the Rockets on Thursday night at Toyota Center. It was the Aldridge that Spurs fans had been calling for all series, and his 34 point, 12 rebound performance effectively erased his 4 point no-show in game 1. Golden State doesn't figure to look past San Antonio in the upcoming Western Conference finals, which begin Sunday in Oakland, since the Spurs have beaten the Warriors five times in the past three years.
After the Spurs routed the Houston Rockets on Thursday night to advance, the Westgate opened San Antonio as a +900 underdog and Golden State as a massive -1600 favourite to win the series. It was not a big night for James Harden, who finished with 10 points while shooting 2-for-11 from the field and 2-for-9 from the 3-point line. Coach Mike D'Antoni added Sam Dekker to the rotation after being criticized for not adding anyone to the rotation Tuesday in the first game since Nene suffered a season-ending thigh injury.
Game 5 of the best-of-seven series presented a different set of adversity for the San Antonio Spurs.
Harden almost averaged a triple-double during the regular season, posting 29.1 points, 11.2 assists and 8.1 rebounds per game. I was trying to be more dominant down there. But in the playoffs, teams take on the persona of their best player, and Harden came out like a man possessed by an Ambien-loving poltergeist. "Everything falls on my shoulders". He had 11 rebounds, five assists and three blocks giving the team what it needed on both ends. In an appearance on SportsCenter, Smith said that he thought Harden looked like he had been drugged prior to Game 6 and called an investigation into the matter. Without his physical presence, Aldridge went to work, scoring 10 points in the first quarter as the Spurs jumped to a 31-24 lead.
Aldridge took even fewer shots this season as the team truly turned itself over to Leonard, and the power forward struggled with a heart condition. Trevor Ariza paced Houston with 20 points, and Clint Capela had 15 points and 12 boards. How does one go from being blown out in Game 1 at home, to winning Game 6 and the series on the road without your best player?
The Spurs did what they could to slow the Rockets down, and against an all-time great transition offense like the Warriors, they could shit it up again.