Back in October, the Rockets had one goal for the regular season: finish among the top four in the Western Conference and open the playoffs at home. On Monday, in game 81 of the season, they accomplished that goal after defeating the San Antonio Spurs 104-98.
“That’s all our coaching staff said, that’s all Daryl Morey said, all we’ve said all year long, is we need to get homecourt,” Rockets forward Chandler Parsons said.
Before the game started, the Rockets were locked into the West’s 4/5 matchup against Portland, but they could’ve been either the four or five seed. A loss wouldn’t have dropped them to the five line, but winning on Monday night helps avoid a must-win game on Wednesday night in New Orleans.
Parsons didn’t play in the Rockets game against the Pelicans on Saturday due to wrist and hip injuries, and listed as questionable for this one, but after a game-high 21 point, seven rebound night against the Spurs he said he was playing, not even an afternoon car accident outside Toyota Center was going to stop him.
“This was a huge game for us,” he said. “There was no way I wasn’t going to play.”
The game was tight for much of the first quarter, but Houston closed it with a 17-8 run to take a 30-21 lead. The Rockets shot 56 percent from the field, while San Antonio was held to 25 percent. Houston scored to first five points of the second quarter, but San Antonio was able to get the Rockets lead down to five. When the first half ended, Houston led 50-43.
“We started off playing really good defense,” Rockets head coach Kevin McHale said. “They missed some shots, but we were contesting some things.”
With 1:45 left in the third quarter, Parsons gave the Rockets a 14 point lead again, but the Spurs scored the last six points of the quarter and the first seven points of the fourth to get within a point. San Antonio was just 1-for-13 from behind the three-point arc through three quarter, but after splitting their first two attempts in the fourth, Boris Diaw knocked one down with 6:40 to play, giving the Spurs an 85-80 lead. Houston tied the game with a 7-2 run, but Marco Belinelli hit another three to regain the lead for San Antonio. The Rockets scored the next eight points to take the lead for good.
All five Rockets starters finished in double figures. Terrence Jones and Dwight Howard scored 20 apiece while combining for just 23 shots. Howard pulled down 17 rebounds, while Jones grabbed 11.
Belinelli was one of seven Spurs in double-figures with a team-high 17 points. Tony Parker and Tim Duncan logged more than 25 minutes, but none came in the fourth quarter. San Antonio had already clinched the top seed in the West and will face Memphis or Dallas in the Western Conference Quarterfinals. Their record drops to 62-19, and 0-4 against the Rockets.
After facing the Pelicans on Wednesday the Rockets will open the playoffs at home against Portland on Saturday or Sunday. A series win could set up a matchup with the Spurs in the Western Conference Semifinals.
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