The final regular season matchup of the year between these Lonestar State rivals also happened to be the final stop on the Spurs' 8-game Rodeo Road Trip, and their third game in four nights. The game threatened to be a laugher at one point, but a strong response from the Rockets kept this one interesting until the very end. It wouldn't be enough, however, as the Spurs showed excellent poise, defeating Houston 104-94 to finish the Rodeo Road Trip 7-1 and achieving their 17th straight 50-win season. The Spurs were led by Kawhi Leonard's 27 points and 8 rebounds, while LaMarcus Aldridge pitched in 26 points and 16 boards of his own. James Harden led the Rockets with 27 points.
Spurs fans have grown accustomed to seeing their team start slow on offense, and tonight was no exception. Fortunately, the Rockets were also having a difficult time finding the bottom of the net. Tim Duncan nailed two straight midrange jumpers around the 9 minute mark for the first buckets of the game for either team. This began a 10-3 Spurs run. Timmy then blocked James Harden for 3,000th block of his career, making him just the 5th player to reach this milestone.
Speaking of Harden, The Beard had 2 points (1-5 FG) and 2 turnovers in the first. Rough going for the Rockets star, which was indicative of the team's play as a whole. Meanwhile, LaMarcus Aldridge had a thunderous dunk, Kawhi exploited matchups to score 9 points
Kyle Anderson came off the bench and pitched in 7 points.
It was a great opening frame for the good guys as they held a 26-11 lead at quarter's end.
Turnovers continued to plague Houston at the start of the second, which can be credited to lockdown defense by San Antonio. When the Spurs' defense wasn't forcing turnovers, they were forcing bad shots. James Harden was stripped just about every time he tried to drive into the paint. He eventually got going, scoring 9 in the quarter but Danny Green did an overall outstanding job checking the Houston star. The Spurs shot 58.3% from the field in the first half compared to a paltry 38% from the Rockets. Kawhi Leonard went into the break leading San Antonio with 15 points, followed by LaMarcus' 10. All this added up to the visitors holding a 51-31 halftime lead.
The Silver and Black came out firing in the third quarter with Danny Green, Kawhi, and Tony Parker all hitting 3-pointers as part of a run that put the Rockets in a 30-point hole. Meanwhile Tim Duncan, Mr. Milestone himself, grabbed career board number 14,969 (1,375 career games) to pass Karl Malone (14,968 rebs in 1,476 career games) for 6th on the NBA's all-time rebounding list. The Spurs led by as much as 31 in the third, but Houston cranked it up a few notches to end the quarter on a 17-5 run. Despite this valiant effort, San Antonio went into the final period leading 76-57.
The Rockets picked up right where they left off to start the fourth by jumping out to a 6-0 run. Patty Mills and Kyle Anderson responded to Houston's energetic play by hitting a pair a jumpers to stop (or at least slow) the bleeding. Houston simply refused to go quietly into the Texas night as they traded buckets with the Spurs and played at a frenetic pace the entire quarter, cutting a 31 point lead all the way down to 11. Coach Pop elected to employ the Hack-A-Howard with 3:07 left and the Spurs up 96-83. Howard went 2-6 on three trips to the line after being hacked. This controversial strategy ended up working as the Houston offense was stymied in the game's waning moments. The Spurs were able to build their lead back up and hold on for the 104-94 victory.
Tough road win, 7-1 record on the RRT, Kawhi and LMA shine, Timmy casually moves up two more all-time lists, and the Spurs get win #50. Not a bad night in Houston for the good guys. Now it's time to head back home where there's tacos cookin', fans yellin' and rivers walkin'. Come on home, boys. You've been away for too long. Great team victory. Go Spurs Go!
Now that the Spurs are done with their Rodeo Road Trip, they'll get to spend a little time in the comfy confines of the AT&T Center, and by a little time I mean they get to play their next game there. After hosting the Pistons on Wednesday, the good guys head to The Crescent City to take on Anthony Davis and the Pelicans in a SEGABABA.