SAN ANTONIO (CBS HOUSTON/AP) — When the San Antonio Spurs finally stopped James Harden, his Houston Rockets teammates came through on defense.
Harden had a triple-double with 24 points, 15 assists and 12 rebounds, and Houston made two late defensive stands to hold off San Antonio 101-99 on Wednesday night, handing the Spurs their third straight home loss. No player has ever recorded a 15 assist night in San Antonio since Greg Popovich started coaching the Spurs in 1996.
“It was important for us,” Harden said. “The only way we’re going to get to where we want to go is on the defensive end. The game wasn’t pretty at all, but defensively we got stops.”
Kawhi Leonard scored 34 points for the Spurs but missed his final two shots, either of which could have tied the game. After Leonard missed a layup in the final seconds, LaMarcus Aldridge missed a tip-in attempt at the buzzer.
Aldridge finished with 14 points and five rebounds.
“It was a good play called,” Leonard said of his last shot. “I got to the paint, got a shot off, just didn’t fall. (Aldridge) had a good chance, it just fell short, but we’ll take that again.”
Leonard made 11 shots on a career-high 26 field goal attempts.
San Antonio extended its longest skid at home since dropping three straight overtime games in December 2014. The Spurs did not lose at home last season until April 11 against Golden State and tied an NBA record by finishing 40-1 at the AT&T Center.
“It’s tough to win in this building,” Rockets forward Ryan Anderson said. “They’re a team that obviously has some great players. To get a win in here, you’ve got to be happy.”
The Spurs used a rotation spearheaded by Leonard and Danny Green to defend Harden, but found little success.
Harden set an aggressive tone early with nine points, six assists and three rebounds in the first quarter.
“He’s always been a great passer,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “He has the ball in his hands a lot more as the point guard. He is one of the best players in the league. Very difficult to guard.”
When Harden wasn’t draining jumpers and tossing in runners, he kicked the ball out to open teammates after drawing multiple defenders on his drives.
The Rockets were 10 for 30 on 3-pointers and shot 47 percent overall in snapping a four-game skid at San Antonio.
Anderson was 4 for 6 on 3-pointers and had 20 points. Eric Gordon scored 15 and fellow reserve Sam Dekker added 12.
“Coach is liable to call anybody and guys stepped up,” Harden said. “Dekker hit some big shots.”
The Spurs sat Pau Gasol the entire second quarter in favor of a quicker lineup and it helped them erase a 13-point deficit to take a 51-50 lead.
San Antonio employed the same strategy late in the third to pull within a point twice, but could not overcome the Rockets even when Harden struggled.
He missed his final three shots as well as a pair of free throws and committed a turnover in the final 3 minutes, yet Houston was able to win with defense.
“They had my back,” Harden said. “But those turnovers, those can’t happen consistently, or two missed free throws.”
Rockets: Harden had his streak of four straight games with at least 30 points and 12 assists snapped. … Houston played seven of its first eight games on the road. The last team to open with such an arduous schedule was Cleveland in 1970-71. … Corey Brewer started his second straight game. Gordon started the team’s first six games.
Spurs: Tony Parker missed his third consecutive game with a sore right knee. Popovich expects Parker to play Friday at home against Detroit or Saturday in Houston. … Manu Ginobili joined Rashard Lewis as the only second-round draft picks in NBA history with 13,000 career points and at least 1,300 3-pointers. Ginobili is the 15th second-rounder to reach 13,000 points. … Green became the sixth player with at least one 3-pointer in 300 games for the Spurs. Parker, Ginobili, Bruce Bowen, Matt Bonner and Sean Elliott are the others.
Harden’s move to point guard has paid off for the Rockets, who are tied with the Spurs atop the Southwest Division at 5-3.
“He’s scoring a bundle and getting about 10 assists a game,” Popovich said. “I think anybody would take that. That’s pretty darn good.”
Green made his season debut for San Antonio, scoring eight points in his return from a strained left quadriceps. He missed his first 3-point try but drained his second from the right corner and finished 2 for 8 on 3s.
“I thought Danny was great,” Popovich said. “He hit big shots. He drove it a few times. He played good defense. I thought he looked really good.”
Rockets: Host San Antonio on Saturday.
Spurs: Host Detroit on Friday.
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