Wed, May 03, 2017 - Page 16 News List

NBA PLAYOFFS: Rockets’ 22 threes dismantle Spurs

DEFENSIVE MEASURES:Houston kept the shooters from San Antonio under close watch, while they made sure Kawhi Leonard had two defenders on him

AP, SAN ANTONIO, Texas

Houston Rockets forward Trevor Ariza goes to the basket against the San Antonio Spurs at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas, on Monday.

Photo: EPA

The Houston Rockets were willing to take whatever the Spurs gave them in Game 1 of their Western Conference second-round series.

Houston ended up with a record-setting offensive performance, a huge boost in confidence and home-court advantage.

Trevor Ariza scored 23 points, while James Harden added 20 points and 14 rebounds as the Rockets stormed past San Antonio 126-99 on Monday night, the Spurs’ worst loss in a series opener under Gregg Popovich.

“Just taking what the defense gives us,” Harden said. “Last series [against Oklahoma City] was a more grind-it-out. We weren’t really making a lot of threes. We had to figure a way to get paint points and in this series so far they gave opportunities to shoot threes.”

The Rockets were 22 for 50 outside the arc, the most threes attempted and made against the Spurs in their long post-season history.

Houston had six players in double figures, including 20 points and 13 rebounds from Clint Capela.

“They came out ready, they outplayed us tonight,” said Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who was held to four points. “They made most of their shots. Guys competed, but I thought we made mistakes early. They took advantage of it. Once they had offensive rhythm they were rolling and we never really found ours.”

Houston led by as many as 39 points, including a 30-point lead in the first half, in the opener of the first series between the rivals since the Rockets’ victory in the 1995 Western Conference finals.

While the hot shooting was not completely unexpected from the explosive Rockets, the defense was. Houston were active in rotating to San Antonio’s shooters and had both defenders stay on Kawhi Leonard on screens.

Leonard had 21 points, fighting his way to five-for-14 shooting.

Tony Parker added 11 points and Jonathon Simmons had 10 for the Spurs.

“Obviously, we are really happy with our defense and what we did,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “Knowing that this was kind of abnormal, they are not going to miss shots like that.”

Houston led 69-39 lead in the first half, the Spurs’ largest halftime deficit under Popovich.

“They came out hot tonight and we just have to do a better job defensively,” Leonard said. “We kind of got stagnant there a little bit. I give my hats to them, they played a great game.”

Popovich called a timeout 80 seconds into the game, berating David Lee for a missed defensive assignment that led to a three-pointer.

It did not help.

Houston hit 12 three-pointers in the first half, the most San Antonio have allowed to a playoff opponent in the opening two quarters.

Game 2 is to be played today in San Antonio.

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