Hot-shooting Spurs rout Rockets

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

SAN ANTONIO -- The San Antonio Spurs have been a model of consistency in the Tim Duncan era, but have struggle this season to put a complete game together.
On Friday night against the Houston Rockets they solved the problem.
Duncan had 12 points and 12 rebounds to lead the San Antonio Spurs to a 114-92 win over the Rockets Friday night at the AT&T center.
San Antonio, fifth in the league in scoring, was hot from the floor all game, shooting 55 percent by making 48 of 87 field goals. They were 12 of 13 from the free-throw line.
"It was a great start to a back-to-back," said Duncan of the Spurs win. "It was a good win for us. We had focus, especially early, and just kept putting it on."
The Spurs had six other players in double figures, led by Tony Parker with 17 points.
Tiago Splitter added 15, Gary Neal, Manu Ginobili and Nando De Colo each had 12 as San Antonio moved to 16-4. They are the first team in the NBA with 16 wins.
All 13 Spurs players scored in the game and San Antonio had a season-high 33 team assists.
The Rockets offensively could not get in rhythm. Jeremy Lin's layup with 7:27 in the third period cut the lead to eight at 66-58.
But San Antonio busted out on 19-2 run that pushed the lead up to 25 when Splitter made a reverse layup with 2:33.
"It was a great run," said Duncan. "They hit some shots. (Spurs coach Gregg Popovich) Pop called a timeout and got on us about letting people back in the game in situations like that. It was great to refocus and get things done at that point."
In their first game in four night, the Spurs were aggressive in the paint, outscoring Houston 60-38.
"We've been really good at protecting the paint and that's where chemistry on defense comes in," said Rockets coach Kelvin Sampson of the Rockets defense. "(Tony) Parker blowing up pick in rolls, turning the corner, getting in the paint and shooting layups; that's team defense that shouldn't happen this year."
James Harden had 29 points on 10 of 16 shooting to lead the Rockets, but he did not score in the fourth quarter.
Harden broke out of his recent struggles (13 of 51 in his past three games), scoring 20 first-half points. But the rest of the Rockets were a combined 11-for-38 in the first half.
"I think it started early," said Harden of the Rockets shooting woes. "Early on our shots didn't fall. They made 3's and got easy points in the basket."
In Harden's last appearance in San Antonio, he nailed a crucial 3-pointer in Game 5 of the Western Conference playoffs as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder, a pivotal playoff win. He could not duplicate that on Friday.
The Rockets, who are third in the league in scoring, were hounded by the Spurs defense all night shooting 37-for-95 (39 percent).
Patrick Patterson and Toney Douglas both had 10 as Houston lost its sixth straight road game and fell to 9-9.
San Antonio took a 57-45 lead at halftime while shooting 52 percent from the field (24 of 46). Parker led the way with 17 points on 7 of 9 shooting.
The teams will face each other again Monday night in Houston.
NOTES: Popovich and Sampson have a history together. Sampson spent three months with the Spurs coaching staff after leaving the head coaching position at Indiana University in 2008 amid allegations of NCAA violations. Two days after his resignation, Popovich called Sampson and invited him to join his staff as a consultant. "I did it because I respect his basketball knowledge. He knows how to get the best out of people and he's a competitive son of (expletive)," Popovich said. ... After sitting out the Milwaukee game Wednesday with a sore left hamstring, Danny Green was back in the starting lineup for the Spurs. ... A moment of silence was held before the game in memory of head coach Kevin McHale's daughter, Sasha, who recently passed away. The Rockets will wear a green and purple band on their jerseys in her memory.

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