Kawhi Leonard James Harden
San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard is defended by Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden during the second half at AT&T Center on March 6, 2017 in San Antonio. Reuters/Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps the most highly anticipated series in the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs begins Monday night. The San Antonio Spurs host the Houston Rockets in Game 1 of what could be a lengthy best-of-seven series.

The Spurs are the slight betting favorite at home, giving the visiting Rockers 5.5 points, via OddsShark. TNT has the TV coverage with Game 1 starting at 9:30 p.m. EDT, and fans can watch a free live stream online at tntdrama.com.

The other three series don’t offer the same amount of intrigue as the one that begins in San Antonio Monday night. The Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers are virtual locks to reach the conference finals. The Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards could have a close series that lasts seven games, but neither is a legitimate title contender.

The Spurs and Rockets, however, could both make a deep run in the postseason. They finished second and third among NBA teams in wins, respectively, and the winner has a chance to at least give Golden State some trouble in the Western Conference Finals. It’s an incredibly daunting task for the Rockets to win the NBA Finals, but they could challenge the Cavaliers in a series, considering they won four more games in a more difficult conference.

San Antonio defeated Houston in three of their four regular-season meetings, though all four games were close. Only one of the contests wasn’t decided by two points, and Monday’s game could very well come down to the wire.

The Rockets had an easier time than the Spurs getting through the first round, defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games. San Antonio needed six games to get past the Memphis Grizzlies.

San Antonio and Houston are two of the NBA’s best teams by playing to different strengths. The Spurs are the NBA’s best defensive team, allowing just 100.9 points per 100 possessions. The Rockets, on the other hand, can score with just about anyone, ranking behind only the Warriors with 111.8 points per 100 possessions.

James Harden will likely finish second in the MVP voting to Russell Westbrook, having posted 22 triple-doubles of his own this season. As the NBA’s assist leader, Harden is surrounded by the best group of shooters in the league, allowing the Rockets to win games by dominating the three-point line. Houston set a record by making 14.4 three-pointers per contest.

If the Rockets can hit their outside shots, they have a chance to pull off the upset, stealing Game 1 in San Antonio. That might mean pushing the final score past the over/under of 214 points.

Kawhi Leonard, however, might put a stop to Houston’s attempt to win the series opener. He might finish third in voting for the MVP award, and his offense has finally caught up to his outstanding defensive ability. He was incredibly efficient in the first round, averaging 31.2 points on just 17.3 shots per game, and the small forward remains the NBA’s best perimeter defender.

San Antonio, however, can match Houston’s offense when they are running on all cylinders. They are one of three NBA teams that ranked in the top-10 in both offense and defense in the regular season, and they have actually made more three-pointers in the playoffs than Houston.

Look for the Spurs to win in a nail-biter.

Prediction: San Antonio over Houston, 110-106