Sat, May 13, 2017 - Page 16 News List

Spurs humiliate Rockets to win series

COLLAPSE:Houston star James Harden accepted part of the blame for the 39-point loss, in which he tallied 10 points after finishing the season second in scoring


The San Antonio Spurs’ Jonathon Simmons, center, hangs from the rim after dunking the ball in the third quarter of Game 6 of their NBA second-round playoff series at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas, on Thursday.

Photo: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY

The San Antonio Spurs on Thursday humiliated the Houston Rockets with a 114-75 Game 6 closeout win that brought James Harden’s Most Valuable Player-worthy season to a startling halt.

LaMarcus Aldridge paced the offense by scoring 34 points for the shorthanded Spurs, who routed the Rockets despite the absence of top scorer Kawhi Leonard and star guard Tony Parker.

“Everybody picked it up. It wasn’t one guy scoring 40 points,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “They played well at the offensive end with a lot of sense and defensively it was one of our best nights.”

San Antonio won the second-round series in six games and punched their ticket to the Western Conference playoff finals against the Golden State Warriors, which begins tomorrow.

Harden’s baffling performance in front of a Houston crowd of 18,050 at the Toyota Center was almost as big a stunner as the Spurs’ winning an NBA playoff elimination contest by a whopping 39 points. The Rockets’ 75 points were second-lowest in a game during the Harden era.

The Spurs did not even need Parker (torn left quadriceps) or Leonard (sore left ankle) to do it. Jonathon Simmons added 18 points in place of Leonard, while Patty Mills chipped in 14 points and seven assists.

Pau Gasol tallied 10 points with 11 rebounds for San Antonio, who trailed 5-4 in the first quarter before coasting to the win.

San Antonio shot 53 percent from the field, compiled a 60-37 rebounding advantage and limited Houston to 28 percent shooting.

“They feel as bad as I do. It is going to hurt and linger,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said.

Harden was a nonfactor on Thursday after finishing second in scoring during the season at 29.1 points per game. He did not attempt a shot until the 6 minute, 19 second mark of the second quarter.

Harden accepted some of the blame for the loss.

“I just didn’t have rhythm,” Harden said. “I was making passes and we didn’t knock down shots.”

“It falls on my shoulders. It is tough, especially the way we lost at home,” he added.

By halftime, Harden had as many points as turnovers (five each) and just two field-goal attempts.

Harden finished with 10 points on two-of-11 shooting with seven assists and six turnovers. Trevor Ariza paced Houston with 20 points, and Clint Capela had 15 points and 12 boards.

Asked if Harden had played injured, D’Antoni said: “He’s been battling that cold, but nothing I know of. I don’t want to litigate what just happened.”

Leonard hopes to return to action tomorrow for Game 1 of the NBA semi-final series.

The Rockets had been 3-0 against San Antonio in post-season series, winning in the first round in 1980, the conference semi-finals in 1981 and the conference finals in 1995.

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