Spurs 99, Rockets 81

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SAN ANTONIO (AP)—Tracy McGrady could only watch this time while Tony Parker led the San Antonio Spurs to victory.

Parker made three inside baskets, including a rare dunk off his own steal, during a decisive 14-3 run in the fourth quarter of a 99-81 win over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night.

Parker went 6-for-7 in the second half and finished with 22 points, but Spurs coach Gregg Popovich only wanted to talk about his defense.

“On defense, he sealed the game for us,” Popovich said. “Nobody notices it, they just notice what people do offensively, but on defense, he was very, very good.”

In the first Spurs-Rockets matchup in early December, McGrady stunned San Antonio by scoring 13 points in the final 35 seconds to lead Houston to a one-point win.

In the second Rockets triumph, McGrady hit a 3-pointer with 35 seconds remaining to end the Spurs’ comeback hopes.

But on Wednesday, the last of his team-high 22 points came on a layup with five minutes left to bring the Rockets within three at 79-76. He took only one more shot, missing a 3-pointer with San Antonio leading by 15.

“I think I’m being too passive,” said McGrady, who shot only 7-for-21. “I’m trying to stay in the offense and getting the other guys involved— that’s how we’ve been winning. Sometimes it’ll hurt us because I do need to be more effective.”

Parker, who had a season-high five steals, wanted to talk about the breakaway slam with about three minutes left.

“The fans always get mad when I make layups, but sometimes I’m tired,” he said. “Tonight I felt good. I’ll try to do more.”

The victory was the Spurs’ first in three tries against Houston this season, and their 16th straight win at home. San Antonio is 24-1 at the SBC Center.

Tim Duncan scored 30 points, including his third 3-pointer of the season, and had 11 rebounds for the Spurs. Manu Ginobili added 18 points.

Yao Ming had 20 points and Juwan Howard 16 for the Rockets, who dropped their second in a row after winning eight straight before the All-Star break.

“We’re struggling to score—I don’t think we had a field goal off the bench tonight,” said Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy, whose reserves went 0-for-11. “(The Spurs) had another level. That’s why they’re the best team in the league.”

Houston played without starting point guard Bob Sura, who has a sore back. The team said Wednesday that Sura, averaging 10.8 points and 5.3 assists, could be out for up to two weeks with the injury.

Ginobili opened the game with a 3-pointer and Parker made two driving layups to give San Antonio a 9-4 lead in the first two minutes. The Rockets followed with their own 9-4 run, with a 19-foot jumper by McGrady tying the score at 13.

Houston led 26-21 after one as the Spurs missed six of their final eight shots of the period.

The Rockets made only five field goals in the second and missed six straight shots at one point, but San Antonio couldn’t take the lead.

Down 40-34 late in the second, Parker made a pair of free throws and a layup to cut Houston’s lead to two. But Yao hit a 14-foot turnaround jumper and foul shots by Jon Barry and Howard put the Rockets up 45-38, matching their biggest lead of the half.

Notes

The Spurs have beaten the Rockets 14 straight times in San Antonio. … Parker is averaging 21 points in seven games in February. … Houston is 6-10 without Sura this season … Rod Strickland, starting for Sura, scored four points and had five assists.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Houston
T. McGrady T. McGrady
7-21,  22 Pts
3 Rebs, 6 Assists
 San Antonio
T. Duncan T. Duncan
10-21,  30 Pts
11 Rebs, 3 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists