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San Antonio vs. Houston, Final Score: Spurs toughen up for 96-89 win over Rockets

After being called soft, the Spurs came out and played hard to end their two-game losing skid.

NBA: Houston Rockets at San Antonio Spurs John Glaser-USA TODAY Sports

Three nights after being called soft and undetermined by their head coach after two straight losses, the San Antonio Spurs looked much more determined and focused in a 96-89 win over the struggling Houston Rockets. It wasn’t always pretty, but the Spurs found a way to get it done with some grit, solid defense, and a breakout night from Derrick White.

LaMarcus Aldridge led the way with 27 points and 10 rebounds, while White had 14 points and 8 assists. DeMar DeRozan and Bryn Forbes also scored in double figures for the Spurs. Eric Gordon returned from injury to post 23 points off the bench for the Rockets, while James Harden scored 25 points, 10 from the line, and only hit 1-13 from three.

Random Observations

  • It turns out those ghostly-white camo uniforms that were leaked last week were not the Spurs’ City Edition jerseys for tonight’s Military Appreciation Night. Instead, they were something more along the line of last season’s black and silver camos. Whether the others turn out to be real or not remains to be seen.
  • White looked much more comfortable tonight, and as the game wore on he found a better balance between distributing the ball and looking for his own shots. He even hit his own huge pull-up three in the waning moments of the game to get the Spurs going on their final run. Hopefully that’s a sign that he’s found his offensive rhythm.
  • After a couple of ridiculously slow starts contributed to their previous two losses, the Spurs hit their first 6 shots. However, they cooled off once the bench unit came in, and on the back of 14 (!!!) Houston free throw attempts to none for the Spurs in the quarter (they made 8), the Rockets snatched a 21-20 lead despite hitting less than a third of their shots.
  • With both Pau Gasol and Jakob Poeltl out, Chimezie Metu got his first meaningful minutes of the season. He showed some promise but unsurprisingly has plenty of room for improvement. He was often lost on offense, on defense Harden made an asserted effort to go directly at him on the drive (usually with successful outcomes), and he was badly beaten on the boards by the Rockets’ much larger back-up big man Isaiah Hartenstein. In all he finished the night with no points, 2 offensive rebounds and 4 turnovers in 12 minutes.
  • Quincy Pondexter of all people broke the Spurs free throw drought with four early in the second quarter. Gregg Popovich may have also pointed out the discrepancy to the officials and given them a “gotta call it both ways” speech, because his team ended up in the bonus early and had 11 free throws in the quarter (to the Rockets’ 7) on the way to a 52-50 halftime lead. It could have been more if not for 11 Spurs turnovers.
  • The refs got another “lecturing” from Pop about not calling the game evenly late in the third after the Spurs had built an 11 point lead. Harden clearly got away with whacking Aldridge across the arms on a shot, and they got in the bonus on the weakest of those new “freedom of movement” calls. He was not a fan of the varying amounts of contact that was being allowed on either end. After the timeout the Rockets immediately got called for holding on a screen but still ended the quarter on a 12-2 run to close the lead to one again.
  • The closing line-up featured White, Patty Mills, Forbes, DeRozan, and Aldridge. This is probably not a group anyone expected to see playing together, but they held it together defensively and closed the game on a 10-4 run — spear-headed by that White pull-up three — to seal the much-needed victory.

For the Rockets fans’ perspective, visit The Dream Shake.

The Spurs are headed to Sacramento to take on the surprising Kings on Monday. Tip-off will be at 9:00 PM CT on FSSW.