Houston Rockets vs. San Antonio Spurs game preview

Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

I like the San Antonio Spurs. Quite a bit, actually.

I wouldn’t describe them as my “second team” or anything like that. I only have one team, with others that I watch and appreciate. For a long time, the Spurs have been at the top of that list. My best friend is a Spurs fan (and one of the only people I talk hoops with, besides my fellow TDSers) so when I rooted for them I was pulling for his happiness too.

However, last year has changed my feelings towards the Spurs, for obvious reasons.

I remember a conversation I had with Xiane a few years ago when the Rockets were taking on the top seed Oklahoma City Thunder in the playoffs. Xiane and I talked about expectations and how that colored our view of the series. I mentioned that I was just happy that the Rockets were returning to the playoffs, but that I expected a sweep. The Thunder were good, I pointed out. And I liked their roster (and not just Kevin Martin) and coaching staff. I knew Houston wasn’t good enough to compete, so I thought I would enjoy the series and not get too worked up about any of the losses.

I distinctly remember Xiane warning me not to get used to that feeling. He reminded me that a playoff series makes you tired of the opposing team. You start to dislike idiosyncrasies that don’t register during an four-game season series spread out over six months. Russell Westbrook’s “pesky defense” would turn into “illegal hand checks that should be fouls” and the like. Kevin Durant’s “savvy foul-drawing drives” would become “the same move James Harden does but admired because the media loves KD and hates Harden.”

He was right.

That series is mostly remembered for Patrick Beverley receiving death threats for a hustle play that dozens of other point guards have made and dozens more will make in the years to come. But it was also the end of my admiration of the Thunder. I started to see their fanbase as spoiled, their GM as more lucky than good, and their stars as mentally weak.

So you’ll understand that it’s become difficult to reconcile my feelings towards the Spurs after last year.

It was easy when the Rockets and Spurs never met in the playoffs. After all, the only Western Conference team Tim Duncan never beat in the playoffs is the Houston Rockets. It’s tough to hate a team that never beats you in meaningful games. Last season was meaningful though.

For all the reasons the Spurs are easy to enjoy, those same reasons make them mightily easy to despise when your team is their opponent. That “never say die” attitude and coaching wizardry is awesome when others are on the receiving end. But when it’s against YOUR team and YOUR guy? It’s the most annoying thing in the world. Admittedly, it’s nice to see LaMarcus Aldridge finally playing against other teams the way he’s played against Houston for years.

The Rockets stole homecourt advantage from the Spurs. They owned Game 1. Kawhi Leonard missed two games and Houston lost both, including a Game 6 that will always stain James Harden’s legacy. Of course, I wrote a love letter to Harden before that game, so it’s basically my own stupid jinxing fault. The Rockets had little excuse to blow the series.

Do you know how many times this picture is going to be posted today by Spurs fans on Twitter and everywhere else? I haven’t been to Pounding the Rock yet (an SBN site I love, by the way), but my guess is if you check out their game preview, you’re going to see it from some angle.

Honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about the Spurs anymore. I respect the crap out of them. Gregg Popovich is the GOAT in the coaching department. It’s impossible not to see and admire their greatness or the winning culture they have built.

But it doesn’t mean I still have to like them, right?

Tip-off is at 8:30pm CT on ESPN

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