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Spurs-Rockets Preview

AP - Sports

Many thought the aging San Antonio Spurs would accept that their better days were behind them, making room for the younger teams atop the Western Conference.

It doesn't seem as if they were informed.

After victories over a pair of up-and-coming conference foes, San Antonio looks to beat the Houston Rockets for the fifth time in six tries when the teams meet Thursday night at Toyota Center.

With Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker supposedly in the latter stages of their careers, few predicted the Spurs would come close to replicating their 61-win campaign of 2010-11 - particularly after they crashed and burned in the first round of the playoffs.

So far, San Antonio (2-0) has proved its doubters wrong. After gaining a small measure of revenge for its postseason exit by beating Memphis 95-82 on Monday, the Spurs crushed the Los Angeles Clippers 115-90 on Wednesday.

The strong start has surprised even Ginobili, who scored 24 points in both games.

"I didn't think that the team was ready to have two games like this," Ginobili said of the Spurs, who have won their first two games for the first time since opening 2007-08 with three straight victories. "We're looking sharp, but I don't want to get too confident. I don't think it's fair or it's true. We still have a long way to go. It just so happened we played two very good games.''

Six Spurs scored in double figures Wednesday as they went 10 of 19 from 3-point range. San Antonio outscored L.A. 38-17 in the third quarter to pull away.

"Our defense in the second half was great,'' Ginobili said. "They scored (36 points) in the second half. We were pretty good on defense. We moved the ball, and everybody scored.''

Houston (0-1) is coming off a 104-95 loss to Orlando on Monday in the debut of coach Kevin McHale, who credited his new team for adjusting to his system despite the defeat.

"Mentally, we're asking them to do a lot of different things with new coverages and a lot of different things with new calls and stuff like that,'' McHale said. "Some of that was blown. Overall, I think this team will play hard. I think we're feisty."

One positive to come out of the opener was Samuel Dalembert's performance. A day after officially signing a multi-year contract he agreed to before Christmas, Dalembert had 10 points in less than 20 minutes.

Dalembert's signing was a necessity after a proposed three-team trade with New Orleans and the Lakers involving Chris Paul, which would have brought Pau Gasol to the Rockets, was rejected by the league.

"I went out there and got some minutes and kept it going,'' Dalembert said. "That is what a team is all about. I like this group. This year we really have to emphasize on defense and then we can get extra possessions. If we can do that, we will be OK.''

Kyle Lowry had 20 points and 12 assists, while Luis Scola scored 19 points.

Scola had 21 points and 14 rebounds and Kevin Martin had a game-high 33 points in Houston's most recent meeting with San Antonio, a 119-114 overtime victory April 1 at home.

The Rockets overcame 31 points from Parker and 23 each from Duncan and Ginobili to end a four-game losing streak against the Spurs, who have won three of the last five meetings in Houston.

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