San Antonio had won eight straight overall and owned the NBA’s best record before Wednesday’s 102-96 setback to visiting Seattle. Tim Duncan scored a season-high 39 points for the Spurs, but it wasn’t enough against the surging SuperSonics.
“They’re a very good team,” said Duncan. “Very well-coached—they execute well. We have respect for them.”
The Spurs may not have such high praise for the Rockets.
San Antonio has won 21 of 23 meetings with Houston since the 1999-2000 season, sweeping four of the last six series between the Texas rivals. The Spurs have also won seven straight meetings from the Rockets, including three in a row at the Toyota Center.
The Rockets are trying to post their first three-game winning streak of the season.
Houston used its best fourth quarter of the season to beat hapless New Orleans 89-81 on Tuesday. Rookie Andre Barrett had 10 of his career-high 14 points over the final 12 minutes, helping Houston to a season-high 30-point fourth period.
“I think we’re doing a better job finishing the game,” McGrady said. “Mentally, we’re stronger and more into the game. We’re doing a better job of executing. We’re getting stronger and doing a better job finishing out.”
Rebounding has also been a key for Houston. The Rockets are 7-1 when they outrebound an opponent, as they did Tuesday against New Orleans, 54-43.