Notebook: Rockets 96, Spurs 95

Posted Mar 24, 2013 11:19 PM

Matt Miller, for

THE FACTS: San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker caught fire in crunch time, but Houston Rockets guard James Harden countered Parker's late surge with his own clutch play.

Harden finished with 29 points, nine rebounds and six assists and drained a 15-foot pull-up jump shot with 4.5 seconds remaining to lift the Rockets to a thrilling 96-95 victory over the Spurs on Sunday at Toyota Center. Forward Chandler Parsons added 20 points and eight boards for Houston (39-31), which has won three straight games overall for the first time since Jan. 25-28 and 11 of 13 at home. Center Omer Asik snatched 14 rebounds and played lock-down defense on San Antonio's Tim Duncan in the final period, limiting the Big Fundamental to zero points on 0-for-3 shooting.

Parker led the Spurs (53-17), which saw their four-game winning streak overall and against the Rockets snapped, with 23 points on 7-for-13 shooting and seven dimes. Duncan poured in 17 points to go with seven rebounds, but his flat performance down the stretch capped San Antonio's third loss in its last four road tilts.

QUOTABLE: "Duncan was playing back the majority of the game, and he's a great shot blocker. The shot that was there was the pull-up, and I had the confidence to go out there and shoot it."
-- Harden on his game-winner.

THE STAT: The Rockets did not take full advantage of their second-shot opportunities, but they made the Spurs squander most of theirs. Houston, which netted 16 second-chance points on 6-for-10 shooting, held San Antonio to five second-chance points on 2-for-9 shooting.

TURNING POINT: Houston carried a seven-point advantage into the fourth quarter and maintained that lead for the first six-plus minutes of the period. But with the Spurs trailing 89-83, Parker took charge by scoring 10 consecutive points to put San Antonio in front 93-89. Parker's play inspired San Antonio to crank up its defensive intensity during this span, leading to seven consecutive misses for the Rockets. The back-and-forth battle continued until the final seconds, when Harden rose up and buried a 15-footer to give Houston a 96-95 lead with 4.5 seconds to play. Duncan tried to steal the victory for the Spurs after a timeout, but his turn-around jumper over Asik did not drop.

QUOTABLE II: "He's very aggressive, and he takes shots and makes [the refs] make calls, and he kept them right in the game. I think he always plays at a very steady pace and picks and chooses his spots."
-- Duncan on Harden.

GOOD MOVE: Houston coach Kevin McHale used rookie backup point guard Patrick Beverley for the final 3:39 because of his defensive prowess. Beverley made McHale's decision look incredibly intelligent when he sparked a massive five-point swing by blocking a Danny Green layup in transition with the Spurs leading 93-89 with 90 seconds left to play.

QUOTABLE III: "I thought one of the biggest plays of the game was Patrick running down that block. That was a phenomenal block."
-- McHale on Beverley's game-changing swat.

BAD MOVE: Manu Ginobili, who entered Sunday shooting 31.6 percent from the field over the last seven games, seemed tentative to pull the trigger when he had good looks at the basket. Ginobili also argued with the officials more than usual when he felt he was fouled, illustrating the toll his shooting slump is taking.

HOT: For the second game in a row, Parker saved his best plays for the end. The Spurs point guard netted 12 of his 23 points, including a perfect 6-for-6 effort at the free-throw line, and did not commit a turnover in the final period. In his return from a right ankle sprain Friday, Parker scored 13 points over the course of the fourth quarter and overtime to lead San Antonio past the Utah Jazz.

QUOTABLE IV: "TP's getting his rhythm back. He's feeling good, and obviously, he's our attack guy on the floor. ... He made some plays to get us back in the game and give us a chance to win it."
-- Duncan on Parker.

NOT: Parsons could not shake his perimeter shooting slump, as the second-year forward knocked down only two of seven 3-point attempts. Including Sunday's outing, Parsons has nailed only 20.7 percent (6-for-29) of his attempts from behind the arc over his last six games.

NOTABLE: Spurs legend David Robinson attended the game with his son. ... San Antonio squandered a chance to sweep the season-series with the Rockets for the first time since 2005-06. ... After Sunday's 1-for-6 effort, Ginobili has shot 30.6 percent (26-for-85) from the field over his last eight games. ... Harden has netted less than 20 points only once since the All-Star break. ... Asik has grabbed at least 10 rebounds in 49 games this season, the most double-digit rebounding performances in a season by a Houston player since Hakeem Olajuwon recorded 63 such outings in 1993-94. ... The Rockets are eight games above .500 for the first time this season, but their next three opponents are playoff-bound teams. ... Houston improved to 21-5 this season when it limits its opponent to less than 100 points. ... The Spurs fell to 48-3 this season when they make a higher percentage of their shot attempts than their opponent and 36-4 when they hold their opponent below 45.0 percent shooting.

UP NEXT: For the Spurs: Wednesday vs. Denver, Friday vs. L.A. Clippers, Sunday vs. Miami. For the Rockets: Wednesday vs. Indiana, Friday @ Memphis, Saturday vs. L.A. Clippers.