The Spurs picked up win number 40 on the season and their third consecutive win, beating the Houston Rockets 108-98 on Saturday night.
The Spurs played from behind for most of the first quarter until they went on a 7-0 run with three minutes remaining to close the gap, ending the quarter down one, 25-26.
In the second quarter, they went on an 11-0 run, led by two DeJuan Blair dunks and a three-pointer by Manu Ginobili, one of only two three-pointers made by the Spurs in the first half.
The Spurs closed out the first half up 53-51. Tony Parker had 14 points, while Manu Ginobili and DeJuan Blair had 10 apiece. Kevin Martin led the Rockets with 10 points.
Points in the paint seemed to be the key for the Spurs in the first half as they outscored the Rockets in that category 32-22.
While the Rockets were able to stay with the Spurs through the first half, they fell behind in the second half as the Spurs stepped up their defensive efforts and kept building on their lead.
“I think second half defense was very good. I don’t think they got as many offensive rebounds and we didn’t turn the ball over too much,” Manu Ginobili said. “We played pretty well in the first half. We just let them get too many offensive rebounds, turning the ball over and stuff like that.”
While Spurs forward Richard Jefferson has been on a bit of a slump lately, he was able to shoot himself out of it last night, scoring 12 of his 18 points in the second half.
“He (Jefferson) was aggressive all night, he played well,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He caught with the idea of trying to be a scorer whether it was shooting the ball or driving it. He did a good job the entire time he was on the court. He also did a good job on the defensive end.”
While Jefferson shot himself out of his slump, Rockets guard Kevin Martin likely shot himself into one. His 10 first quarter points were the only points he scored all night. Martin missed his final seven shots, including five three-pointers.
“I think sometimes you can’t settle for just taking long shots. You have to move the ball a little bit better. I don’t think we moved the ball as well as we needed to move it,” said Rockets coach Rick Adelman.
“They put a little false pressure on us and we gave into it. The big guys put some pressure on our bigs and it pushed us further out on the court. We didn’t take what defense was giving us. We kind of just gave into it.”
Six Spurs scored in double figures. Aside from Jefferson’s 18, Ginobili scored 22 points, Tony Parker scored 17, DeJuan Blair had 14 points, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots, George Hill had 14 and Tim Duncan had 12.
James Anderson, who was recalled from the Toros yesterday, got into the game late, playing just over three minutes and scoring two points. It was the first time Anderson scored since before his injury in November.
“We’re just going to keep trying to play the way we’ve been playing,” Popovich said. “We’re going to try to improve and if there’s a spot for him it will show itself. We’re not going to force anything.”
I had a chance to speak with Anderson pre-game, who said he was surpassed to get the call from the Spurs after only two games in Austin.
“I actually thought I was going to play this morning in Austin and I got the call and I was told to come back here tonight,” Anderson said. “It feels good just being back with the team and it definitely feels good be back on the court playing period.”
The Rockets game was the Spurs’ last home game before they embark on the nine-game rodeo road trip. They’ll start the road trip on Tuesday night against the Portland Trailblazers.
For Spurs rookie Gary Neal, although he is well-traveled after playing two seasons overseas, he said he wasn’t sure what to expect from the road trip.
“This will be something new for me. I really don’t know how I’m going to pack for this,” Neal said. “We got a break in the middle after the first three games so we get to come back to San Antonio and rest up and repack and reload our bags, but you know this is new for me, it’s a new experience so hopefully it doesn’t beat us up too bad.”
Make sure to check back on Project Spurs tomorrow as our newest writer, Miguel Castro, will have a rodeo road trip preview.