The Houston Rockets never had a chance. Even with the Spurs playing without their go-to guy Kawhi Leonard, Gregg Popovich’s well-oiled system didn’t miss a beat. They just plug a Jonathon Simmons (18 points on 8 of 12 shooting) in here and move a couple of pieces around there and rely on the fact that Popovich is simply a superior coach to Rockets offensive guru Mike D'Antoni, having won 76.9 percent of the matchups against him in all appearances.
More than 10 percent of Popovich’s total playoff wins have come against a team coached by D’Antoni. Pop’s system is five rings worth of good and D’Antoni’s makes for phat stats and premature playoff exits dating back to his days with the Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire Phoenix Suns.
This new high-scoring Rockets squad, with another system-manufactured MVP candidate in Harden, won’t win a ring in 2017 as they were embarrassed and eliminated at home by the Spurs, 114-75 in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals. The Spurs won the series 4-2 and are back in the Western Conference Finals for the first time since the 2013-2014 championship season.
D'Antoni never had a chance. After Game 1, it looked as if he found a secret formula to finally upending his arch nemisis, but reality set in soon after,
In head-to-head matchups between the two coaches, fughetaboutit.
D'Antoni's first playoff clash with Pop was during the 2005 Western Conference Finals. Twelve years later, he's fallen once again to Popovich in six games.
Popovich's 20 playoff wins vs D'Antoni are tied for the most ever by one coach against another. Pop owns D’Antoni just as he owns most of the coaches he has faced over his illustrious head coaching career that began in 1996.
This Spurs team wasn’t supposed to make much noise in these playoffs. It was preordained a battle of The Super Teams and a rematch of the last two NBA Finals with Cleveland and Golden State.
Let's be real.
The Spurs lose Kawhi, Houston has a chance to really swing the series in their favor with the Spurs down their best player and Mike D'Antoni comes up with a goose egg. That's just terrible. Meanwhile, James Harden plays his worst game and Pop's boys get their most dominating win.
Folks forgot that coaching also wins championships and the Spurs have the best sideline stalker out here. Pop is currently tied with Phil Jackson with a record 20 consecutive winning seasons and he’s one of just nine coaches to have won 1,000 NBA games.
D’Antoni couldn’t beat Pop when it counted before and he couldn’t do it this time around. There’s levels to this coaching thing and Popovich proves it year in and year out.