NBA Basketball: San Antonio Spurs at Houston Rockets – Spurs Favored
The Spurs go after their season-high eighth consecutive victory and again hope to gain ground in the Southwest Division as they open a four-game road trip against the Houston Rockets on Saturday night.
San Antonio (40-18) is in second place, nine games behind streaking Dallas – winners of a franchise-record 14 straight victories heading into its game later on Saturday. On Dec. 11, the Spurs were 16-6 and held a 1 1/2-game lead over the Mavericks, who have since reeled off 35 wins in 37 games to overtake San Antonio.
The Spurs, meanwhile, have gone 24-12 since then which is best record of any non-division leader in the league in that span.
San Antonio has lost four games in the standings to the Mavericks since the start of Dallas’ most recent winning streak on Jan. 25, but they haven’t lost any ground to the defending Western Conference champions since Feb. 13 while countering with a winning streak of their own.
That run reached seven games with Friday’s 98-74 rout of Orlando, avenging a last-second defeat to the Magic on Feb. 9 in which they squandered a double-digit lead. Manu Ginobili made a season-high six 3-pointers – including one right before the end of the third quarter that gave the Spurs a 65-57 lead – and finished with 31 points, continuing his recent strong play.
"We’re happy to get a win against these guys, after a really tough loss a couple of weeks ago,” said Ginobili, who had 16 of his points in the third quarter. "(Coach Gregg Popovich) said we couldn’t allow them to do it again."
The Argentinian-born guard is averaging 20.4 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists during the winning streak, shooting 53.5 percent overall and 48.3 percent (14-for-29) from beyond the arc.
"It will be a different game," Ginobili said about playing the Rockets. "They’re the best defensive team in the league."
San Antonio’s other two options – forward Tim Duncan and point guard Tony Parker – also are making significant contributions during the winning streak. Duncan has recorded consecutive double-doubles and has averaged 19.3 points and 10.3 rebounds while shooting 60.2 percent from the floor, and Parker has averaged 16.3 points and 5.1 assists and has converted 51.0 percent of his shots.
Houston (36-22) avoided a three-game losing streak with a 108-97 win at Denver on Friday. Tracy McGrady scored 11 of his 28 points in a 1:54 span of the second quarter and Dikembe Mutombo had a season-high 22 rebounds for the Rockets, who had five players reach double figures and made 14 3-pointers.
"I had it rolling,” said McGrady, who has scored at least 22 points in each of the last seven games he’s played, averaging 29.7 points in that span. "I wanted to set the tone for my team and they followed.”
Mutombo, continuing to play extended minutes as starter at 41 years old while Yao Ming recovers from a fractured right tibia, became the oldest player in NBA history to pull down 20 rebounds in a game and has averaged 10.5 boards in 30 games as a starter.
"Mutombo getting 22 rebounds was huge,” Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said. “That helped us win the rebounding battle. Lately we’ve been getting killed on the boards.”
The Rockets are going for their third consecutive win over the Spurs, having won the previous two at San Antonio. The only game Houston lost to San Antonio this season was the only game between the teams it had both McGrady and Yao together on the court.
McGrady had 37 points and eight rebounds as the Rockets built a 14-point fourth-quarter lead before holding off the Spurs for a 90-85 victory on Jan. 24.
By: Marc Young – theSpread.com – Email Us
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