On Christmas Day the Rockets put coal in the Spurs' stockings. A week later San Antonio began the new year on a high note as they executed a nearly flawless second half and blitzed their Texas rival 121-103. Three Spurs scored in the 20s, led by LaMarcus Aldridge's 24, Kawhi Leonard's 22 and Boris Diaw's 20. The Silver and Black are now 20-0 at home. Dwight Howard's 22 points were a Houston team-high, followed by James Harden's 17.
It was all Houston in the early going as the Rockets' energy level far exceeded the Spurs'. A 12-0 Houston run put the good guys in a 12-3 hole at the 7:24 mark, which finally prompted a timeout from Coach Pop. Lazy passes led to turnovers while slow rotations resulted in wide open shots for Houston. And then Danny Green happened. Verde's New Year's Resolution to "make more shots" is off to a great start as he sank a contested corner three to put the Spurs up 3-0 and then nailed three more after the timeout to cap off an 11-2 run to make it a 14-14 game. Danny played so well that when he came out of the game as a sub for Manu Ginobili, Coach Pop immediately subbed out Kawhi Leonard instead and reinserted Danny. Much has been said about Green's poor shooting this season, and with good cause, which made his hot start tonight extremely gratifying. LaMarcus Aldridge pitched in 8 first quarter points on 4-6 shooting as the good guys were able to shake their sloppy start to finish the frame with a 29-27 lead.
A Parker-Ginobili-Mills-Diaw-West lineup to start the second quarter played with frenetic energy, generating numerous wide open looks. Unfortunately none of these shots went down as the Spurs went on a cold streak highlighted by Patty Mills missing three straight threes. David West scored the next 6 Spurs points, all while wearing the same focused/angry look he dons every night. Just when another crippling Rockets run seemed imminent, Kawhi Leonard exploded to the basket for a two-handed slam and Danny Green nailed his fifth Tar Heel Triple to tie the game up at 48. This put the Spurs in the driver's seat as they finished the half on a 17-7 run, led by Kawhi Leonard's 14 second quarter points, and went into the break with a 60-55 lead.
Three turnovers in the first 2 minutes of the second half kept the Spurs from extending their lead as the Rockets quickly erased the 5 point deficit. This lasted all of 4 minutes as the Rockets were careless with the ball and the Spurs cranked up the energy on offense, finishing the third quarter on a 31-7 run. LaMarcus Aldridge continued to bully helpless Rockets defenders as he scored 11 points in the quarter on a mix of midrangers, layups, and free throws. Danny Green dropped in a sixth three-pointer from the corner off a Ginobli-esque assist from Kawhi Leonard. Icy-Hot was long overdue for a Hot stretch, so perhaps tonight is a sign of things to come. Manu Ginobili rattled off 8 points in the third after a scoreless first half. Spurs nemesis James Harden was kept in check throughout the quarter and the good guys entered the fourth leading 96-72.
Danny Green wasn't the only Spur having his best game of the season. Boris Diaw put on a virtuoso performance, scoring 20 points and grabbing 8 boards. Le Grande Croissant was especially brilliant in the second half and played a key role in blowing the game wide open. The Rockets scored 31 in the final frame but it was far too little far too late. The Silver and Black did more than enough to hold on for a big blowout victory and avenge their Christmas Day loss.
LaMarcus Aldridge continues his stellar play, Kawhi keeps doing Kawhi things, Danny Green finally gets it going, Boris boogies his way to a season-high 20 points, and Timmy rests once again, playing only 14 minutes. As a team, the Spurs made 13 three-pointers, shot 18-19 from the free throw line, dished out 31 assists, and shot 52.3% from the field. Big home win against a rival is a great way to ring in the new year. May this be the first of many big wins in 2016.