The Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs combined on a record-setting defensive performance in the opener of their home-and-home set. Scoring is likely to be at a premium again as the clubs close out the series at the SBC Center.
The teams met Thursday night in Houston, with San Antonio earning a 71-67 victory. The clubs’ 55 points in the first half was the lowest two-team total since the shot clock was introduced in the 1954-55 season.
“It was two very good defenses running into each other,” said Tim Duncan, who scored 14 of his 22 points in the second half. “They did one heck of a job on me. It seemed like three or four guys were on me every time I got the ball.”
Houston is allowing the second-fewest points in the NBA at 84.8 per game, while San Antonio is third at 85.4.
“When you play as many games as we play, this kind of thing is bound to happen,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “Luckily it happened to both of us at the same time. If it had happened to only one team, the other would have led by 20 in no time. Neither one of us could make a shot and neither one of us could take care of the ball.”
San Antonio, winner of five in a row, missed six straight shots and eight of 12 at the start of the second quarter. Houston trailed 18-17 after one period, committing five turnovers in that span.
The Spurs shot 22.7 percent (5-for-22) in the second quarter, and Houston shot 21.4 percent (3-for-14) as San Antonio carried a 30-25 lead into the break.
The halftime point total was the lowest in Spurs history. Houston’s eight second-quarter points and its 25 in the half were the second-lowest totals in club history.
STANDINGS (through Dec. 11): Rockets - 1st place (tied), Midwest Division. Spurs - 4th place (tied), 1/2 GB, Midwest Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Rockets - Francis, 17.5 ppg and 5.0 apg; Yao, 10.0 rpg. Spurs - Duncan, 22.5 ppg and 12.9 rpg; Parker, 5.8 apg.
SEASON SERIES: Spurs, 1-0.
LAST MEETING: Thursday; Spurs, 71-67. At Houston, Duncan scored seven of his 10 fourth-quarter points during a 15-6 run as the Spurs erased a four-point deficit and took a 68-63 lead with 1:25 remaining.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Rockets - 5-6 on the road; Spurs - 8-3 at home.