The Spurs took advantage of a Houston Rockets team that admitted to a lapse of focus after recently clinching the best record in the Western Conference, and pulled out a crucial win in its own playoff push.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 23 points and 14 rebounds and Rudy Gay added 21 points as San Antonio held Houston to its lowest-scoring game of the season, beating the Rockets 100-83 to snap their 11-game winning streak.
“We’ve been through some ups and downs this season, but we’re picking up at the right time,” Gay said. “There is no better time than this. This is when teams make or break themselves.”
The Spurs, winners of eight of their last 10, remained fourth in the Western Conference after preventing a season sweep by the Rockets, who have the NBA’s best record with a frachise-best wins total.
There appeared to be a bit of a hangover after the Rockets clinched the West’s top seed following Golden State’s loss to Milwaukee on Thursday.
“(The Spurs) played 10 times harder than we did,” Houston coach Mike D’Antoni said. “Looked like a team trying to stay in the playoffs at a good spot and (Rockets) like a team that’s already got it sewn up and we played that way. If we play that way Tuesday we’ll get our rears busted again.”
San Antonio outscored Houston 19-8 to open the fourth quarter in taking a 94-74 lead with five minutes left. D’Antoni opted to take his starters out two minutes later, but they struggled prior to the late benching.
“They do a good job of trying to run us off the line,” Rockets star James Harden said. “They played much harder than us. They’re fighting for a playoff spot as well. Credit them, they came out and played well tonight.”
Harden scored 25 points for Houston on eight-of-19 shooting. He also had eight assists, but dealt with foul trouble before exiting with five fouls. Eric Gordon added 18 points for the Rockets.
Houston was without injured Chris Paul and San Antonio was without Kawhi Leonard, who has played in only nine games this season.
at Cleveland 98, Dallas 87: LeBron James struggled before extending his record double-digit scoring streak to 868 games in a Cavaliers victory. He finished just five of 21 from the field but made a pair of three-pointers as the Cavaliers finally pulled away with a 15-2 run in the fourth quarter.
Utah 121, at Minnesota 97: The Jazz shot a season-high 60.5% from the field and got 50 points from their reserves. Ricky Rubio scored 23 points, including a season-high five for six from three-point range, and Donovan Mitchell added 21.
Oklahoma City 109, at New Orleans 104: The Thunder’s Russell Westbrook didn’t score in the first quarter but ended with a triple-double: 26 points, 15 rebounds and 13 assists. Paul George scored Oklahoma City’s first 11 points in the second and finished with 27.
Philadelphia 119, at Charlotte 102: Playing without injured star Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and the 76ers posted their 10th straight victory, their longest since 2003. The 76ers also set a team record with their ninth straight game of 30 or more assists.
at Chicago 113, Washington 94: After coach Fred Hoiberg went home sick, Lauri Markkanen and the Bulls shot feverishly and scored an upset. Markkanen had 23 points.
at Golden State 117, Phoenix 107: Kevin Durant had 29 points and 11 rebounds for the Warriors, who handed the Suns their franchise-record 15th consecutive loss.
at Portland 113, Memphis 98: Damian Lillard score 27 points as the Trail Blazers clinched their fifth straight playoff spot.
Detroit 108, at Brooklyn 96: Reggie Jackson scored 29 points for the Pistons, who kept their slim playoff hopes alive.
at Atlanta 94, Orlando 88: Tyler Dorsey had 19 points as the Hawks ended a five-game skid.