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Spurs, Rockets try to wake up NBA’s sleepy second round


    San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili (20) shoots as Houston Rockets forward Ryan Anderson defends during the first half in Game 4 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series.

Maybe San Antonio and Houston can still salvage the second round.

Their series, just like the other three in the NBA’s conference semifinals, hasn’t provided much in the way of must-see moments. No need to stay up late for a frantic finish when the outcomes are decided so early.

But the Spurs and Rockets did play four tight games in the regular season, with three decided by two-point margins. So perhaps there’s still drama ahead, starting Tuesday in Game 5 in San Antonio with the teams tied 2-2.

Often the pivotal game in a best-of-seven series, maybe it’s the one to bring out the best in both teams at the same time. For some reason, it hasn’t happened in Texas — or really anywhere else in May.

“I wish I was that smart and I could figure that out,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “I don’t know. We made shots, don’t make shots. I guess when both teams start making shots you’ll get it close.”

It’s been blowout basketball all over the second round, where Cleveland didn’t even trail in the fourth quarter against Toronto until it was in the midst of finishing a sweep Sunday with a 109-102 victory. That was the first game of the entire round decided by single digits — even the overtime game between Boston and Washington in Game 2 of their series ended with a 10-point victory for the Celtics.

The games have been so non-competitive down the stretch that the NBA hasn’t needed to generate a Last 2 Minutes report for any game except that one in Boston. During the postseason, the league issues the officiating reviews for all games within three points at any stage in the last two minutes of the fourth quarter, or the last two minutes of any overtime period.

The starters have largely been on the bench and the fans on the way to their cars by late in the fourth quarter.

This series has featured Houston victories by 27 and 21, while the Spurs took the two games in between by 25 and 11. That’s nothing like the type of basketball they played against each other during the season series, when the Spurs outscored the Rockets by an average of 104.8-102.8 while winning by six, two and two.

“I mean, it’s crazy. I’ve never seen nothing like that,” Rockets guard Eric Gordon said. “It’s all about tempo. When you slow the game down, it almost kind of favors them. And when you play fast, it favors us. I think now we have kind of really figured out what needs to happen and what we need to do to win.”

The Spurs bounced back fine after getting clobbered in the opener and will try to do so again following Houston’s 125-104 victory on Sunday.

A look at the only game on the schedule Tuesday:

Rockets at Spurs, series tied 2-2. Game 5, 8 p.m., TNT.

NEED TO KNOW: Simple stuff so far. The record-setting Rockets have rolled when they’ve made their 3-pointers, hitting 22 in Game 1 and 19 more in Game 4. They averaged just 11.5 3s in the two losses, shooting 31.5 percent.

KEEP AN EYE ON: The Spurs’ transition defense. Gregg Popovich pointed to it as San Antonio’s biggest problem Sunday and the Spurs know they have to get back and set up to keep the Rockets from playing the quicker pace they prefer. “I think we have to communicate better in transition and try to get to shooters better,” Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge said after Game 4. “We got caught in the middle trying to find guys and not really locking them up tonight.”

INJURY UPDATE: The Rockets lost backup center Nene for the remainder of the postseason because of a muscle tear in his left thigh. And guard Patrick Beverley missed practice Monday to be with his family after his grandfather died Sunday, but he will return to the team and start Tuesday.

PRESSURE IS ON: In this situation, both. The winner of Game 5 in the 196 times the series was tied won the series 82.7 percent of the time, according to information provided to the NBA by Elias.

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