This primetime matchup could be the main event on Christmas Day. While the first three games on the schedule showcase at least one mediocre big-market team, the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs are both for real. The 22-6 Spurs are comfortably on top of the Southwest Division at the moment, but Houston would be only 3.5 games back with a win on Wednesday.
The last time the Rockets visited San Antonio, they were able to hold off a Spurs comeback. Marco Belinelli's 18 points off the bench and Tony Parker's team-high 26 points weren't enough to stop James Harden down the stretch.
All in all, this should be a fantastic evening game, as two great friends in Tim Duncan and Dwight Howard get to spend the holiday together. Remember the time Dwight was ejected while the Spurs finished their sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers last playoffs? I'm sure Duncan does:
Meet the Spurs
The Spurs remain the Spurs, one season after pushing the Miami Heat to Game 7 in the NBA Finals. They have the second-best defensive efficiency in the NBA and are just one game out from the first seed in the Western Conference.
The "consistency" narrative exists for a reason. Parker, Manu Ginobili and Duncan are still going strong, while the role players complement them to perfection. Tiago Splitter, Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard continue building on their time with the organization, but what about newcomer Marco Belinelli? He's proven to be a phenomenal pick up for the team, shooting 51 percent from beyond the arc. Here's a look at his shot chart:
Meet the Rockets
The Rockets are still transitioning into the Dwight Howard-James Harden era. Their roster is still incomplete while Omer Asik remains on board after Daryl Morey's self-imposed "deadline" to trade the big man passed without any changes for Houston. Worse, they're dealing injuries across the board. Starting point guard Patrick Beverley is expected to miss more than a month after fracturing his hand, Harden has been dealing with foot and ankle injuries through the season (though he should play in this game), Greg Smith missed the team's last game with a sore knee and Asik remains out with a "bruised thigh."
Despite all of that, the team is holding up and are currently the sixth seed in the Western Conference. Their offense has been humming, racking in 109.3 points per 100 possessions, according to Basketball-Reference, but their defense is in the bottom half of the NBA.
With Harden averaging 23.9 points per game, Howard putting up a gaudy 18.7 points and 13.2 rebounds and Chandler Parsons handling business as the third wheel with 17.3 points per game of his own, Houston's doing a lot right. They can still do much better, too.
When: Dec. 25, 8 p.m. ET
Where: San Antonio, Texas, AT&T Center
How to watch: ESPN