HOUSTON – The Houston Rockets used a late rally to overcome a fourth-quarter deficit for a 104-98 win over the San Antonio Spurs Monday night at Toyota Center that clinched a season series sweep.
The Rockets (54-27) secured home-court advantage for their Western Conference quarterfinal series against the Portland Trail Blazers by completing their first season sweep against the Spurs (62-19) since the 1988-89 season. Houston surged into the lead with a 10-2 run after San Antonio wrestled control with a spirited performance from its bench.
Houston center Dwight Howard recorded his 10th consecutive double-double against the Spurs, posting 20 points and 17 rebounds. Forward Chandler Parsons added 21 points and seven rebounds while guard James Harden (16 points, seven assists) sealed the win with a step-back jumper with 50.5 seconds left that pushed Houston to a 100-94 lead.
Guard Marco Belinelli led seven Spurs, including four reserves, in double figures with 17 points. Forwards Jeff Ayres (12 points), Boris Diaw and Austin Daye (11 points each) and guard Manu Ginobili (10 points) reached double figures off the bench. San Antonio produced 47 bench points.
In just his second game back after missing eight games with a left ankle strain, Howard provided the Rockets an early boost in the paint, scoring six points and grabbing seven boards in the first quarter.
Howard and forward Terrence Jones (20 points, 11 boards) proved a dominating interior tandem, combining for 15 points and 10 rebounds as Houston carried a 30-23 lead into the second quarter. That was just the start for Howard, who converted all six of his shot attempts prior to intermission with an array of post moves, entering the break with a double-double (12 points, 11 boards) and the Rockets leading 50-43.
Houston kept the Spurs at arm’s length, keyed by Parsons’ 14 third-quarter points. When Parsons followed a Jeremy Lin 3-pointer with a bank shot, the Rockets led 76-62 and the Spurs appeared to concede by benching All-Stars Tim Duncan and Tony Parker for good.
One 20-4 run later, and the Spurs worked their way into the lead with their reserves.
NOTES: One takeaway from Rockets coach Kevin McHale playing Houston G Troy Daniels, a D-League call-up earlier that afternoon, down the stretch last Saturday night was that veteran Fs Omri Casspi and F Jordan Hamilton watched the comeback from the bench. While hindered by injuries, inconsistent bench play remains an issue. “If everybody gets healthy we’re not looking (for options) quite as much either,” McHale said. “But yeah, it’s always a little disconcerting with two games to go and you’re (searching for consistency).” … The Spurs rested G Patty Mills, G/F Danny Green, F Kawhi Leonard and C Tiago Splitter on Monday night. … The flux at the bottom of the Western Conference postseason picture has Spurs coach Gregg Popovich seeking resolution so that his team can begin preparations in advance of the first round. “It would be good to know who we’re going to play, because right now we’re concentrating on three different teams,” Popovich said. “That’s a little bit frustrating maybe.”
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