The first two times the Rockets played the Spurs they jumped out to big leads, but had to hold on late to get wins. They beat San Antonio again on Tuesday night 97-90, but the script was flipped.
Playing without James Harden due to a sore thumb, things couldn’t have started worse. Houston trailed by as many as 15 points. Dwight Howard missed his first eight shots, and Chandler Parsons missed his first seven.
“We missed a lot of shots and they came out and hit some,” Howard said afterwards. “That’s going to happen some nights, but we didn’t give up, we kept fighting.”
When the first quarter ended, the Spurs lead was down to eight, and the Rockets got a point closer at halftime, but the third quarter was when the game turned. Houston scored five points in less than 40 seconds, forcing a Spurs timeout. A couple of minutes later a Howard dunk gave them their first lead. After scoring 39 points in the first half, the Rockets scored 33 in the third quarter, but it was holding the Spurs to 18 points that was most important.
“We changed a couple of things defensively,” Rockets head coach Kevin McHale said. “We were switching too much. We kept chasing them and chasing them too much.”
San Antonio was held to less than 43 percent shooting, 26 percent from behind the three-point arc, but where the Rockets really imposed their will was on the glass. Houston out-rebounded the Spurs 55-39, with the Rockets grabbing 18 offensive rebounds. Howard led the way with 16 boards, including a couple late that helped seal the win. Terrence Jones had nine rebounds to go along with his 21 points.
“We were up two points and Dwight went and got that and put it back in and got big defensive rebounds,” Rockets guard Jeremy Lin, who had 18 points and 8 assists himself, said. “Both of them were patrolling the lane and Terrance doing a good job on Boris Diaw down the stretch. Those things are invaluable.”
Diaw led the Spurs with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Tim Duncan added 12 points and 14 boards. For the first time in his career, Duncan will lose the regular season series with the Rockets. The two teams will play once more on April 14 at Toyota Center.
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