SAN ANTONIO -- For most of the night, the San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets kept up a frenetic pace at the AT&T Center -- a pace from those by-gone ABA days that kept the fans cheering but the coaches grumbling.
But the Spurs were able to use a couple of key runs and were able to hold off the Rockets 122-116 Friday night.
One of those runs, 18-7 to open the fourth quarter with a star in foul trouble, helped the Spurs build just good enough of a cushion.
"We got a group that did an excellent job of both sprinting back in transition, showing a crowd in full court shell and getting guys off the 3-point line," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "That group got us on track and we got stops and we got a lead and hung on to it."
The Spurs built a 15-point lead in the first quarter, with Danny Green doing much of the damage. He found himself wide open way too often and scored 14 of his 17 points in that quarter, hitting four of five 3-pointers. He added another three in the second quarter. Green has been a good gauge of how the Spurs perform. When he hits more than one 3-pointer, the Spurs are 14-3.
Defense was not in large supply during this game. The Spurs shot 57 percent from the field and 50 percent from deep. The Rockets shot 52 percent.
While Green got the Spurs started, it was their old reliables who carried them the rest of the way. Tony Parker (31 points), Tim Duncan (30 points) and Manu Ginobili (season-high 23 points) took over after Green's start.
"I kind of had a nice stretch in the third quarter but (Duncan and Parker) have been playing great all season so I kind of joined in on the scoring today," Ginobili said. "The main thing is we beat a great team that has been rolling."
Harden picked up fourth and fifth fouls 21 seconds apart in the final minute of the third, and that was part of the reason Houston fell behind to open the fourth.
"It changed the entire game," Harden said. "I had to play more hesitant. Especially for the type of player I am, I'm aggressive and I like to play aggressive."
The Rockets battled back late, and trailed 118-108. Harden missed a fast-break layup and Parker scored a layup on the other end that put the game away.
Chandler Parsons added 24 points and eight rebounds for the Rockets and Jeremy Lin added 21. Lin lamented the Rockets inability to handle the ball. Parsons, Harden and Lin each had five turnovers, and the Rockets tallied 24 as a team, their most this season.
"Turnovers were a bugaboo for us all night long," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. "You can't turn the ball over 24 times on the road and expect to win."
Duncan added to his list of impressive career accolades. With two blocks tonight, he surpassed Tree Rollins for eighth on the all-time blocks list with 2,544. He needs 188 to catch Shaquille O'Neal.
Notes: According to Yahoo! Sports, Rockets assistant coach Kelvin Sampson is a "significant candidate" to take over as the Brooklyn Nets coach. When Rockets coach Kevin McHale took a leave of absence earlier this year, Sampson led the Rockets to a 7-6 record. The Nets fired Avery Johnson earlier this week. ... Spurs guard Gary Neal missed his second consecutive game with a strained right calf. ... The Rockets have been on an offensive tear recently, averaging 122 points a game in three of their last four games. That three-game stretch tied an NBA record of winning three consecutive games by scoring 120 points and recording a margin of victory of at least 22 points in each game. ... Houston's last outing saw its pace slowed with an 87-84 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. It was the Rockets' first win on the road against a Western Conference team.