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San Antonio at Houston, Final Score: Spurs get revenge on Rockets, 106-100

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The Spurs held off a furious Rockets comeback in the final moments as they won 106-100 in their first game with all of their normal starting lineup available.

Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

The Spurs held the Rockets to a season-low 40 points in the first half, and extended the lead in the third as the Spurs offense was more efficient with a healthy Tony Parker leading the charge.  The last six minutes of the game were became a little more anxious for fans of the Silver and Black as the Rockets surged back behind hot shooting from Eric Gordon and Trevor Ariza. But key defensive plays and scoring from Kawhi Leonard, and timely baskets from Pau Gasol and Patty Mills preserved the win for the Spurs.

Game Flow:

James Harden, showing that he cares about defense this year, committed a foul in the first minute, but nothing much else happened early until Aldridge hit a mid-range shot to put the Spurs up 2-0. That was the only score for 2 and a half minutes until Tony Parker got free under the basket for a layup. But the offensive rebounding of Clint Capela resulted in points. In the first 4 minutes only 7 total points were scored and the Spurs led 4-3.  But the cap came off the basket and the Rockets went on a 8-2 run in a minute and and the score was 11-6 Rockets with 7:09 left in the quarter.  This led to a quick Gregg Popovich timeout. After the timeout, there were several miscues by both teams, but a Danny Green triple and a Kawhi Leonard drive tied it up.  Patty Mills got open off a Green assist to put the Spurs up by three.

Harden's lack of effort on defense began to cost the Rockets as the Spurs got open looks and began to score efficiently and get open shots, building a 24-15 lead with just over a minute left. Nene and Harden hit free throws, and Jonathan Simmons answered with a spectacular driving layup with just over 2 seconds left.  But Harden was able to pick up the ball off the inbounds near halfcourt and drain a deep three pointer to cut the lead to just 4 points as the Spurs led 26-22.  It could have been a much bigger lead, but the late scoring surge from the Rox kept it close.

The bench, with Tony Parker at point, started the second quarter and extend the lead to 32-24 behind the tough inside play of David Lee and Manu Ginobili, along with a slick up and under move from Tony.

Eric Gordon and Tyler Ennis kept the Rockets in range until Harden returned halfway through the quarter. Kawhi continued to contribute on both ends.

Harden used his preternatural ability to draw fouls and turn them into foul shots to bring the Rockets to within 3 points at 39-36 with 4:13 left. The Rockets cut the Spurs lead to just one at 41-40, but the Spurs righted the ship and scored the last 8 points of the half with key shots from Pau Gasol and Patty Mills to lead 49-40 at the halftime break. Holding Harden and the Rox to just 40 in a half was a big improvement over Wednesday's effort, where they surrendered 63 in the half.

Tony started the scoring in the second half with a slick up and under as the shot clock expired to stake the good guys to a double digit lead. Harden actually got called for a travel, which gave the ball back to the Spurs, for a pair of Parker free throws.  Trevor Ariza answered with a three to cut it to ten. The teams continued to battle, and the Rockets took advantage of their athleticism to get rebounds and layups. But the Spurs offense was more efficient with Parker distributing the ball and the Spurs built a 65-50 lead halfway through the quarter. But Eric Gordon (twice) and Trevor Ariza hit three point shots to cut the deficit to 69-59 with 5 minutes left. After another Gordon triple and a Harden free throw, the lead was down to six with 4:20 left in the third quarter and Pop needed a timeout.

Coming out of the timeout, the Rockets continued their hot shooting and cut the lead to five behind a Sam Dekker three-point shot. but  Manu's pullup three brought the Spurs lead to 9 with just under 2 minutes left in the quarter.

Another Manu triple built the lead to 80-68 with a minute left. After a final exchange of baskets, the Spurs led after three quarters 82-70.

The fourth started with a beautiful assist from Manu to Patty for a layup. The first three minutes of the quarter were dominated by Tony Parker as he drove to the basket creating open shots for himself and his teammates, leading the Spurs to a 90-74 lead, leading to a Mike D'Antoni timeout.

Harden took over the offense out of the timeout, scoring three straight points for the Rockets. After a basket from Gordon, David Lee hit a basket to stop the bleeding. But Eric Gordon turned an offensive rebound into a spectacular dunk for the Rockets, and then hit a three to cut the Spurs lead to 92-84 with a little less than half of the fourth quarter left to play. Pop called time and held a powwow with the Spurs players.

Kawhi took the ball to the basket for a dunk to bring the lead back to double digits, but the shot clock expired on Danny Green's next shot attempt, and Gordon hit a three to cut the lead to seven. But a Kawhi dunk followed by a steal from Kawhi led to two more Leonard free throws to bring the lead back to 11. But Ariza sidestepped Green to get an open three. Harden hit another and the lead was just 5 at 98-93. Kawhi hit a shot and Eric Gordon answered with a triple. After an exchange of baskets with Harden and Aldridge, the Spurs led by 4, at 102-98 with just under two minutes left.

On the next Rockets possession, they missed shot after shot, but kept possession with offensive rebounds, and after a timeout, Danny Green blocked Harden's shot, but on the ensuing possession, the LaMarcus turned over the ball with 41 seconds left.  The Rockets weren't able to capitalize as the Spurs kept them away from good looks at the basket, and Harden's three point attempt bounced harmlessly off the shot clock. With just 20 seconds left, the Rockets were forced to foul, and Tony hit his free throws to extend the lead to six. Harden drove to the basket and the score was 104-100 with just a baker's dozen of seconds left in the game.

Aldridge hit a pair of free throws, the Rockets used a timeout to advance the ball, needing 6 points in 10 seconds. But they only got off a shot off the side off the side of the backboard and time expired.  Spurs win 106-100.

Observations

  • Bill Land has a terrible cold, but he's soldiering on and broadcasting the game.  Please don't cough on any of the players, Bill!
  • Kawhi Leonard has only missed two free throws all season and leads the league in accuracy from the charity stripe.
  • This was the first game of the season where Danny Green, Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard, Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge were able to start the game.

  • David Lee's effort level in going after rebounds is almost Rodman-like.
  • Aldridge's mid-range shot has been off lately.  I wish he didn't always settle for it. Later in the game, he got in closer to the basket, and started to hit more shots.
  • I accidentally mistook Eric Gordon for Ben Gordon last game. They have similar body types, but they're completely different guys. I can't believe nobody caught that. But he's a streaky shooter who's a dangerous scorer just like Ben.
  • Simmons is starting to look like a confident player. He's making a real impact out there on both ends of the floor.
  • Davis Bertans? He did not play. I am disappoint.
  • I think the Rockets took a million three point shot attempts.  That's only a slight exaggeration. They actually only shot 47.

Irrelevant Musical Interlude:

(I really should have saved this one for the Kings game)

What's next:

The Spurs record is now 7-3 and they are in first place in the division, Just ahead of the Houston Rockets. If they continue winning at this pace for the rest of the season, they on pace for 57 wins in the season. They are back home on Monday to play the Miami Heat at 7:30 pm.