Spurs top Rockets, first to 40 wins
SAN ANTONIO (AP)
The San Antonio Spurs are the NBA's first team to 40 wins, and got there faster than the four-time champions ever have before.
Maybe three weeks on the road will make things more challenging.
''I'm just speechless right now,'' said Spurs center DeJuan Blair, who had 14 points and 12 rebounds. ''Because it's just such an honor to be on this team, on this quest for greatness, and we've just got to keep it going.''
Richard Jefferson added 18 points in what was San Antonio's last game at the AT&T Center for three weeks. The Spurs (40-7) embark on their annual Rodeo Road Trip starting Tuesday, testing the NBA's best record against nine straight road games.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has traditionally used the trip as a distraction-free chance to work out the kinks. But with the NBA's best record, the Spurs have few obvious faults - and are so far ahead in the Southwest Division (9 games) that they could lose every game on the trip and still be at the top.
Luis Scola led the Rockets with 23 points and 10 rebounds. Houston trailed just 76-71 after the third quarter before being buried by a flurry of 3s, and finished the game looking winded a night after nearly overcoming a 25-point deficit in a loss to Dallas.
''They don't beat themselves,'' Rockets forward Shane Battier said. ''We were right there with them for a half. We played pretty good basketball, then we had that lull where we couldn't answer their 3s and their big shots that created separation.''
Houston has lost four of six.
Tim Duncan, in jeopardy of missing the All-Star game for the first time in his career, had 12 points and seven rebounds as every Spurs starter was in double figures. Fans didn't vote in Duncan as an All-Star starter for the first time in 11 seasons, and he must wait this week to see whether coaches vote him in as a reserve.
Blair's double-double was his eighth this season. Tony Parker added 17 points and George Hill had 14 as the Spurs moved two wins from tying the franchise record of 20 straight home wins, set during the 1989-90 season.
''You keep competing, executing and trying to improve,'' Popovich said. ''It doesn't matter if you have the best record or the worst record.''
Kyle Lowry had 15 points for the Rockets. Houston's road trip won't get any easier: the Rockets head to Los Angeles on Tuesday to play the Lakers, then finish another back-to-back Wednesday at Utah.
''We were in the game all they way into the third quarter. But they were too solid. They are too solid,'' Scola said. ''Most solid team in the NBA. They're the best team in the NBA, period.''
The Spurs went 5-for-8 behind the 3-point line the fourth, including Ginobili sinking two with a close hand in his face both times.
Hill's 3-pointer with 7:32 left capped a 7-0 Spurs run and stretched the lead to double-digits for good.
Three months into the season, the Spurs are already just 10 wins shy of matching their 50-win total from a season ago.
San Antonio's road trip won't be as grueling a gauntlet as years past, either: Only three of the nine games (Portland, the Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago) are against teams with winning records before the Spurs return home Feb. 23 against Oklahoma City.
Notes: The Spurs recalled rookie swingman James Anderson before the game. The Spurs' first-round pick hasn't played since a stress fracture emerged in his right foot six games into the season. ... Spurs F Matt Bonner missed his seventh straight game with a sore right knee.