In the crazy world of "lockout basketball", the Rockets play the Spurs for the 3rd time tonight in only their 16th game of the season. Their final game this season comes less than two weeks later on February 1st; all four games against the Spurs are in their first 22 games overall. As early as it may be, tonight's game vs. San Antonio is very important. If the Rockets win tonight, they'll trail the Spurs by just .5 games and have the inside track to owning the tiebreaker over San Antonio. The Rockets will likely be on the bubble this season as a playoff team, with 16 fewer games this year, it's even more crucial to win as many tiebreakers as possible.
The Rockets have gone on a 5 game winning streak since their overtime loss at San Antonio on January 11th; the home teams have won both games this season in this match-up. Overall the Rockets are 6-1 at home vs. just 2-6 on the road this season. Their average margin highlights the difference even more; their average margin at home is a 98.9-90.1 win, on the road their average margin is a 103.5-95.1 loss. The Spurs home/road splits are even worse with a 9-1 record at home; 1-5 record on the road, giving up 104.7 points (11 points more than at home). To put it simply, each team is completely different when they're at home.
Look for the Spurs to struggle tonight on the road, in the 2nd game of a back-to-back, and without all-star guard Manu Ginobili. With the emergence of Dalembert, I don't think the Spurs can match-up inside, and with Lowry playing like an all-star; they won't fare much better on the perimeter. Including tonight, 5 of the Rockets final 6 games in January are at home. They need to start to make their move now in the conference, to do that, they'll have to dominate at home.