HOUSTON (AP)—Tony Parker scored 23 points and Tim Duncan added 14 to help the San Antonio Spurs keep pace with Dallas for the best record in the West with a 92-77 win over the Houston Rockets on Saturday night.
The Spurs recovered from a sluggish start to match the Mavs’ 52-14 record atop the Western Conference. Dallas plays at New Jersey on Sunday.
Yao Ming scored 20 points for the Rockets, the 13th straight time he’s reached 20.
But Houston has lost four in a row for the first time since dropping seven straight in January and the latest losses are following the same pattern—with Tracy McGrady sidelined with back trouble, Yao isn’t getting enough help.
The Rockets trailed by 13 with eight minutes left, but Head’s layup capped a mini-rally and trimmed Houston’s deficit to seven.
The Spurs, the league’s best defensive team, allowing 88 points per game, then held the Rockets to four baskets the rest of the way to beat Houston for the fifth straight time.
The Spurs have also won four in a row overall and 12 of their last 14.
McGrady could be out the rest of the season with a back injury and the Rockets, plagued by injuries all season, got another scare five minutes into the game when Yao collided with Nazr Mohammed. Yao went down, clutching his right knee, but stayed in the game after the Rockets called time out.
Yao had only five points in the first nine minutes, but the Rockets led because of the Spurs’ 3-for-16 start. The Spurs trailed 17-11 after one, a season low in a first quarter for a Houston opponent.
San Antonio stayed close with its defense, then sank four straight shots and took their first lead at 23-22 on Michael Finley’s 3-pointer with 6:42 left in the half. After a 5-for-23 start, the Spurs sank eight of their next 10 shots.
Even with Yao on the floor, the Rockets’ offense suddenly fell apart, with four consecutive turnovers and no points for three minutes.
The Spurs led 39-33 at halftime, 60-53 after three quarters, then opened the final quarter with a 12-6 spurt to seemingly put the Rockets away.
But San Antonio then went four minutes without a field goal and the Rockets surged to within seven. Duncan ended the Spurs’ drought with a layup and Bowen sank a 3-pointer with 3:34 left to restore the double-digit edge.
McGrady sat out for the 19th time this season and the Rockets dropped to 2-17 without him.
The Rockets have lost their last four in a stretch of seven straight against teams with winning records. Houston plays the L.A. Clippers on Monday. …The Rockets dropped to 0-12 against teams in the Southwest Division. … After matching a career high with 30 points against Phoenix on Friday, Mohammed scored only seven points.