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Rockets prevail in Texas shootout

Updated: 2013-12-02 07:41
By Associated Press in San Antonio ( China Daily)

Houston overcomes furious rally to hand Spurs first loss at home

The Houston Rockets gave away a 23-point lead, Dwight Howard was being fouled intentionally and the disdain of the San Antonio Spurs' sellout crowd was roaring down on them in the final minutes of the game.

It was a tense situation that Houston would have folded under last season, James Harden readily admits. But the Rockets demonstrated on Saturday night that they are a different team this season, even if it is early.

Rockets prevail in Texas shootout

San Antonio Spurs shooting guard Manu Ginobili gets under Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard during the first half on Saturday in San Antonio. The Rockets won 112-106 to hand the Spurs their first home loss. [Photo by Darren Abate / Associated Press]

Harden scored 31 points, Chandler Parsons had 25, and Houston overcame a furious second-half rally to beat San Antonio 112-106, handing the Spurs their first home defeat.

"It's a great win for us," Harden said. "Last year we probably would have caved in; they would have beaten us by a lot. So, this year the improvement we've adjusted to has been tremendous. A back-to-back in San Antonio is always tough, but we showed resiliency and pulled out a great win."

Harden had 16 points in the final quarter, going 4-for-8 from the field and 7-for-10 on free throws in leading Houston (13-5) to its fifth straight victory.

Howard had 13 points and 11 rebounds, Terrence Jones added 10 points and 16 boards and Patrick Beverly scored 11 points.

Tony Parker had 27 points, Tim Duncan added 20 and Marco Belinelli scored 18 for San Antonio (14-3), which has lost two of three.

San Antonio outscored Houston 39-26 to open the second half, with Belinelli scoring 13 points after halftime to set up the furious finish.

Harden hit a high-arcing, off-balance 3-pointer to tie the game at 106 with a minute remaining.

"That was the shot of the game," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.

Parker then missed a driving layup over Howard, and Beverly tipped in Harden's miss to put Houston up 108-106 with 32 seconds remaining.

Manu Ginobili missed a 3-pointer, enabling Houston to outlet to Parsons for a dunk and a 110-106 lead with 16 seconds left to seal a victory over its longtime state rival.

"It's going to be a dogfight every time we see these guys," Howard said. "And that's what we want. That's going to make us better as a team, and it's going to make it fun for the fans to watch."

San Antonio drained nine of 26 3-pointers. Without the Spurs' usual crisp ball movement, Parker was forced to take the offense into his own hands, going 13-for-27 from the field.

"If you get Tony Parker to put a lot of shots up, it takes away from all their guys knocking down 3s and getting us off balance," said Harden.

The Rockets responded to a late first-half spurt by the Spurs by opening the second half on a 13-2 run that Parsons and Harden opened and closed with 3-pointers.

The run appeared to fire up Duncan, who scored seven of the Spurs' 13 points in one stretch, including an alley-oop-dunk in front of Howard. The Spurs were energized by their stoic leader showing some fire, closing within 81-80 with 2 minutes left in the third quarter.

"They battled back," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. "It got scrappy and dirty, and they got really physical with us. They got a little lead, and our guys made some big plays and battled back down the stretch."

Belinelli hit consecutive 3s to give San Antonio an 85-83 lead early in the final quarter, its first since going up 12-11 with 6:34 left in the first. He added another 3 to give the Spurs an 88-83 advantage.

"It's a great lesson for us," Popovich said. "When you play a good basketball team, you've got to come with passion, an edge and aggressiveness for 48 minutes - and we did that for a half. (The Spurs) got embarrassed for a whole half. In the second half, their aggressiveness was very good. They got themselves back in the game."