SAN ANTONIO (AP) The Spurs took advantage of a Houston Rockets team that admitted to a lapse of focus after recently clinching the best record in the Western Conference, and pulled out a crucial win in its own playoff push.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 23 points and 14 rebounds and Rudy Gay added 21 points as San Antonio held Houston to its lowest-scoring game of the season, beating the Rockets 100-83 to snap their 11-game winning streak.
”We’ve been through some ups and downs this season, but we’re picking up at the right time,” Gay said. ”There is no better time than this. This is when teams make or break themselves.”
Article continues below ...
The Spurs winners of eight of their last 10, remained fourth in the Western Conference after preventing a season sweep by the Rockets, who have the NBA’s best record with a frachise-best wins total.
There appeared to be a bit of a hangover after the Rockets clinched the West’s top seed following Golden State’s loss to Milwaukee on Thursday.
”(The Spurs) played 10 times harder than we did,” Houston coach Mike D’Antoni said. ”Looked like a team trying to stay in the playoffs at a good spot and (Rockets) like a team that’s already got it sewn up and we played that way. If we play that way Tuesday we’ll get our rears busted again.”
San Antonio outscored Houston 19-8 to open the fourth quarter in taking a 94-74 lead with 5 minutes remaining. D’Antoni opted to take his starters out two minutes later, but they struggled prior to the late benching.
Houston shot 34 percent from the field and was 7 for 31 on 3-pointers.
”They do a good job of trying to run us off the line,” Rockets star James Harden said. ”They played much harder than us. They’re fighting for a playoff spot as well. Credit them, they came out and played well tonight.”
Harden scored 25 points for Houston on 8-of-19 shooting. He also had eight assists, but dealt with foul trouble before exiting with five fouls. Eric Gordon added 18 points for the Rockets.
Houston was without injured Chris Paul and San Antonio was without Kawhi Leonard, who has played in only nine games this season.
Gay scored six points in two minutes bridging the first and second quarters, including what became a four-point play. Gay rebounded his own missed free throw after making the first and was fouled on a layup. He made the ensuing free throw.
Gay finished 9 for 13 and had three rebounds and two steals.
”He was tremendous today,” Spurs forward Kyle Anderson said. ”You could see him kind of take over the game.”
Gay later blocked a shot and then raced downcourt for a slam dunk that brought a thunderous response from the home crowd and led to a timeout by D’Antoni.
Dejounte Murray had 13 points and six rebounds for the Spurs. Murray scored four of his first six points against Harden, driving twice past the Rockets star for a layup.
”You’ve just got to play game to game,” Aldridge said. ”You can’t get too high, too low. We’ve got to take this intensity and this focus on the road and try to get two wins on the road.
Rockets: Houston’s previous low point total came in a 103-89 loss to Memphis on Oct. 28. … Paul missed the game with a sore left leg. D’Antoni said the star guard is ”not quite there but looking very good for Tuesday” against Washington. … P.J. Tucker remained in the game despite taking an elbow to the top of the head and later crashing to the floor after a rebound. … Gerald Green tweaked his right ankle with about two minutes left in the first half while scrambling for a loose ball. Green shoved Danny Green to force a stoppage and exit the game, gingerly walking on his right ankle. Gerald Green played 14 minutes in the second half.
Spurs: San Antonio has at least 45 wins in 19 straight seasons, the longest streak in league history. … Popovich said he is unsure when Leonard and ”his group” will clear the forward to play as Leonard continues his rehabilitation in New York with his own team of doctors.
TIME TO STOP
Harden says the Rockets have been coasting recently despite winning their previous 11 games. And it needs to come to an end.
”It’s time to amp it back up a little bit and just get our minds and our bodies right and be ready to go,” Harden said.
FEELING LIKE HIS OLD SELF
Gay demonstrated he is returning to full health with a resounding dunk and thunderous block against the Rockets.
Gay ruptured his left Achilles tendon in January while playing with the Sacramento Kings, but has worked himself back to health while coming off the bench for San Antonio.
”I guess they’re back,” Gay said of his hops. ”I think I told someone that last game, I’m really starting to feel like myself.”
Rockets: Host Washington on Tuesday night.
Spurs: Visit Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night.