SAN ANTONIO (CBS HOUSTON) The news of Donatas Motiejunas being out for the remainder of the season early on Wednesday was just the start of a very bad day for the Houston Rockets. Despite a strong start the Rockets could not handle a furious second half run by the San Antonio Spurs in a lopsided 110-98 defeat Wednesday night at the AT&T Center. The Spurs have now won nine straight and are once again climbing the ladder of the west.
The Rockets (53-25) led the Spurs (53-26) by as many as nine points in the opening quarter, but an 8-0 run, including threes by Manu Ginobili and Boris Diaw to close out the opening stanza saw the Spurs close the gap to 33-32. Harden scored 13 in the opening period making six of his eight shot attempts.
The Rockets once again built an eight point lead in the second quarter as Trevor Ariza’s three with 5:39 remaining in the half gave Houston as 49-41 lead. The Spurs outscored the Rockets 16-4 the remainder of the half and led 57-53 at intermission.
“We started out a little sloppy and a little undisciplined,” Spurs coach Greg Popovich said. “I thought we got our poise back. In the second quarter we played a little bit more solid and a little bit more disciplined game.”
The Spurs would never relinquish the lead and led by as many as 22 in the second half and turned a competitive game with a playoff atmosphere into a game where Kevin McHale emptied his bench midway through the 4th as a sign of surrender.
“They played better than we did and when you play better than another team, you score more points than they do,” McHale said. “You can get away with mistakes against some teams, but against [the Spurs] they will make you pay.
Harden finished with a team high 22, but scored just seven in the second half.
Dwight Howard, who is still being acclimated back into the line-up from his knee injury, played very well in defeat with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Despite his play, Howard expected more in this game against their division foe.
“They won loose balls and just out hustled us,” Howard said. “We’ll see these guys again Friday, so we need to figure out how we’re going to get ourselves going and stay that way.”
Tony Parker, who was questionable before the game began with an ankle injury, led all scorers with 27 points. Kawhi Leonard scored 20 and grabbed four steals for the Spurs.
With the loss, the Rockets are now tied with the Memphis Grizzlies, who defeated New Orleans on Wednesday 110-74, for the second seed in the Western Conference. The Grizzlies currently hold the tie breaker over Houston due to a better record within the conference. The Spurs are now 1/2 game behind both the Grizzlies and Rockets for second place and are now tied with the Clippers for the fifth seed.
The Rockets and Spurs will face off again Friday night at Toyota Center.
Alex Del Barrio can be heard on Saturday afternoons on Sportsradio 610. Follow Alex Del Barrio on Twitter: @ADBSportsguy