It's a battle of red-hot point guards tonight as Jeremy Lin, left, and the Houston Rockets face Tony Parker, far right, and the San Antonio Spurs in the third game of their season series in San Antonio. (Photo : Reuters)
The last time the Houston Rockets and the San Antonio Spurs met on Dec. 10, the game saw a moment of "Linsanity" from Jeremy Lin, a historic first-ever triple-double from Tony Parker and a heart-stopping, high-scoring shootout that went into overtime in a 134-126 win for the Spurs.
Tonight, these two Southwest Division rivals will go head-to-head once again as the NBA's No.1 ranked scoring team, the Rockets (16-12) look to extend their five-game winning streak to six at the expense of the division-leading Spurs (22-8) at 8: 30 p.m. EST, at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas.
Both Houston and San Antonio rank first and second in the NBA in scoring at 105.3 and 104.9 points per game, respectively, but the Spurs hold the 2-0 season series edge over the Rockets, including the Dec. 10 overtime thriller.
While James Harden, the fourth-leading scorer in the league, and Lin have been looking like they have figured out how to play together, forging a backcourt that could potentially be dominant, the Tim Duncan and Parker-led Spurs are 11-2 at home, where they have won seven straight and are on a winning streak of their own with three straight wins.
Latinos Post breaks down the key match-ups for tonight's game:
Power Forward: Marcus Morris, Rockets vs. Tim Duncan, Spurs
It's an uphill battle for Morris these days. One game after facing All-Star power forward Kevin Love, he now has to contend with the all-around skill of Duncan, the Spurs' mainstay.
In the last two games against San Antonio, Morris has done an admirable job with 7.5 points and 3.9 rebounds. Meanwhile, Duncan, has been steady and productive, as per his mantra, for the Spurs, averaging 17.6 points in the last five games, although he hasn't been quite as effective against the Rockets, against whom he has only tallied 11.0 points but grabbed 12.5 rebounds.
Center: Omer Asik, Rockets vs. Tiago Splitter, Spurs
The seven-footer Asik has been anchoring the team in the middle all season, putting up 13.5 points, blocking 1.3 shots and grabbing 12.8 rebounds in the last five games. He defines the word "all-around player."
Meanwhile, Splitter, at 6'11" and 240 pounds, plays the center role with just enough offense and rebounding to pass, while being a pesky defender to boot. Against Houston, he has been a little tougher, scoring 12.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in the two games against the Rockets this season.
Small Forward: Chandler Parsons, Rockets, vs. Kawhi Leonard, Spurs
While he has cooled a little, averaging only 12.0 points on 44.6 percent shooting in the last five games, Parsons can still explode for a 20-plus point game at any moment. He's one of those blue chip players that could keep Houston going for years to come.
Meanwhile, Leonard is shooting at an impressive 50.0 percent from the field in the last five games since Dec. 17, averaging 11.3 points in that span, and as his 17-point, 3-of-7 from three-point range night against Dallas on Dec. 23 showed, he has the ability to hurt a team if given the opportunity.
Shooting guard: James Harden, Rockets vs. Danny Green, Spurs
Green has been a key player for the Spurs all season, and as his 25-point night with 7-of-8 three-point shots against Dallas earlier this week showed, he can be a deadly shooter when he's given the opportunity.
That being said, Harden is looking like arguably the best shooting guard, and one of the deadliest scorers, in the NBA at the moment. He's averaging 29.7 points in the last five games, and the first and only time he played the Spurs this season, he hit them for 29 points and five assists with three rebounds.
The Spurs will have to buckle down on Harden on defense this time, or else the fourth-best scorer in the NBA (25.8 points per game) could power the league's best offense to victory.
Point guard: Jeremy Lin, Rockets vs. Tony Parker, Spurs
If there was ever a match-up to watch, it's Lin vs. Parker, Part III.
And the sequel has a lot to live up to, after the scintillating performances these two gave on Dec. 10. Lin erupted for 38 points and seven assists, his finest performance of the season, while Parker answered with his first career triple-double of 27 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists.
In the last five games, Lin has gone from tepid to torrid with 16.6 points and 7.4 assists averaged since his 22-point show in his return to New York on Dec. 17 in a 109-96 victory over his former team, the Knicks.
While Lin may have the youth advantage and a lot of momentum, Parker, who is averaging 22.0 points against the Rockets this season, has been hot for the Spurs, shooting a deadly 53.4 percent from the field with 20.5 points and 7.2 assists for December.
Both are deadly scorers. Both can get the offense going by themselves and with teammates. And with some serious bragging rights at stake as to who is the best point guard in the Lone Star State, both will have something to prove tonight.
Manu Ginobili, may not be the deadly scorer he once was, but his 12.3 points off the bench in the last four games, despite missing a game with a thigh injury, have been critical for San Antonio. Gary Neal should provide a nice boost off the bench as well, while Stephen Jackson's play at the power forward position gives the Spurs loads of depth.
It'll be up to Toney Douglas, Greg Smith and Carlos Delfino to answer the call for Houston. Delfino can be a sparkplug with his play off the bench, averaging 9.0 points on 42.5 percent shooting in the last five games, and, as his 16 points against the Knicks on Dec. 17 showed, he can definitely be an "x-factor" from the reserve corps when given the chance.