James Harden and the Houston Rockets are turning into a big problem for the San Antonio Spurs.
Harden scored 28 points, while Dwight Howard had 15 points and 20 rebounds, leading the balanced Rockets to a 111-98 victory over the Spurs on Wednesday.
Each of Houston’s starters scored in double figures as the Rockets improved to 2-0 against the Spurs this season, with both victories coming on the road. They also moved within 3.5 games of San Antonio (22-7) for the lead in the Southwest Division.
“I think we can be very good,” Houston forward Chandler Parsons said.
“It’s obviously a process and we’re getting better every single day, but when we defend like that, rebound well and get out in transition, we’re tough to beat,” he said.
Harden scored 31 points in Houston’s 112-106 victory against San Antonio on Nov. 30. The Rockets have won their past three against the Spurs dating to last season and are averaging 108.8 points over the past six games in the series.
“We just didn’t give very good performances,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “You can live with that from time to time. Nobody’s going to play perfect every night, but you can’t combine poor performances with a lack of physicality and a lack of discipline. They whipped us. They whipped us good. That’s an embarrassing loss.”
Parsons and Terrence Jones each scored 21 points for the Rockets (19-11), who shot 52 percent from the field.
Jeremy Lin had 13 points, eight assists, two blocked shots and just one turnover.
The Spurs have dropped two of three and split their past six games. They are just 3-6 over the past month against teams with a record above .500.
Supersub Manu Ginobili led San Antonio with 22 points, while Tim Duncan added 11 points and 14 rebounds. Kawhi Leonard had 13 points, but Tony Parker was held to six points on three-for-11 shooting.
“We didn’t play well,” Parker said. “Move on to the next one, it’s the NBA.”
San Antonio never recovered after Houston raced to a 27-9 lead. The Spurs were unable to stop Parsons’ long shots, Harden’s drives, Howard in the paint or Jones on the boards for follow ups.
“Our guys really came out on fire,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “They were excited to play. Really moved the ball — attacked. Terrence had great energy. He was running and helping the defense. We really set the tone early and rode that the entire game.”
Houston led 40-25 after the first quarter. It was the most points allowed by the Spurs in the opening period this season and tied for the most in any quarter. Oklahoma City scored 40 points in the second quarter of their 13-point victory last Saturday in San Antonio.
“The first quarter was embarrassing,” Ginobili said. “They picked us apart. We were not as aggressive as they were, not as sharp as they were, and they scored 40. So it’s the second time that happened and that’s way too many.”
Ginobili slammed the scorer’s table with his right palm during a timeout with Houston leading 27-11.
After trailing by 18 points in the first half, San Antonio had a couple of solid stretches in the second half, but could not make the plays they needed to complete the rallies.
“We toughened up,” Parsons said. “We understand that this is a great team playing on their floor and we have to get some big stops. Everyone collectively bought into that, we got some huge stops and we didn’t stop running, either.”
Leonard’s three-point play on Howard’s fourth foul pulled San Antonio to 71-64 with 4 minutes, 47 seconds left in the third quarter. The Spurs closed to 73-71, before Harden and Lin began draining long jumpers to help the Rockets pull away again.
Harden closed out the victory, scoring 16 points in the final quarter after missing the previous two games with an ankle injury. His second three-pointer of the game made it 100-90 with 5 minutes remaining.
“No, I just was getting the feel the first three quarters of who’s making shots,” Harden said when asked if he was waiting on the fourth quarter.
“I missed two games. I wanted to get a feel for who was playing well. Coming into the game, I wanted to keep them involved, and keep them going and try to get mine towards the end,” he said.
Kamaru Usman put on a Fight Island masterclass yesterday to retain his UFC welterweight world title by grinding down a brave Jorge Masvidal in Abu Dhabi. “I’m at the top of the mountain and everyone’s looking at me,” said the 33-year-old Usman after scoring a unanimous points decision 50-45, 50-45 and 49-46 on the three judges’ cards. The Nigerian-American Usman (17-1) looked the fresher fighter, with Masvidal (35-14) having taken the UFC251 headline bout at just six days’ notice when Brazil’s Gilbert Burns (19-3) tested positive for COVID-19 and was unable to travel. The Las Vegas-based UFC pulled off a power-packed schedule with
Taipower on Sunday charged to their third straight win and took over first place in the Taiwan Football Premier League as previous leaders Taichung Futuro suffered their first defeat of the season, while Hang Yuan rallied from two goals down to complete a thrilling 3-2 victory over National Taiwan University of Sport (NTUS). Heading into the 10th round of matches, unbeaten Taichung Futuro led the league with 21 points, but they fell to their first defeat of the season, a 1-0 loss to Tatung at the National Stadium in Kaohsiung. In a match in which both defenses were on top and there
Thailand international Pitsamai Sornsai, a new arrival for Inter Taoyuan, is to lead her team against Taipei Bravo tomorrow in the 10th round of the Taiwan Mulan Football League. Sornsai, who is nicknamed Pui, has attracted interest from media and fans as the first foreigner signed to play in Taiwan’s women’s league. Inter are among six teams battling for the title this year. The addition of Sornsai is a boost for the international profile of women’s soccer in Taiwan and elevates the competition. The 31-year-old brings a wealth of experience, including from the Asian Football Confederation’s Women’s Championship, the Southeast Asian Games and
HOTSHOT: Luis Suarez scored his 194th goal for Barca, tying him with Ladislao Kubala as the club’s third-highest scorer, behind Cesar Rodriguez and Lionel Messi With another decisive penalty from Sergio Ramos, Real Madrid on Sunday extended their perfect run after the COVID-19 suspension and moved closer to their first Spanish title in three years. Ramos scored his fifth goal since the season resumed as Madrid defeated Athletic Bilbao 1-0 to maintain a four-point lead over Barcelona, who beat fifth-placed Villarreal 4-1. Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann were among the scorers for Barcelona after assists from Lionel Messi. Ramos converted a 73rd-minute penalty to give Madrid their seventh straight victory and they remain the only team with a perfect record since La Liga resumed. “These three points are very