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Ginobili keys decisive run as Spurs top Rockets

Nov 15, 2006 - 4:11 AM HOUSTON (Ticker) -- The San Antonio Spurs showed the upstart Houston Rockets they have a ways to go to challenge in the Western Conference.

The bench sparked a big run and Manu Ginobili scored 19 points as the Spurs rallied from a big deficit for a 92-84 victory over the Rockets.

Tim Duncan scored 19 points and paced a big second-half defensive effort by San Antonio (6-1), which held Houston to 28 points after intermission en route to its fifth straight win.

"You can credit San Antonio with continuing to play when it got tough for us in the fourth," Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "We had a lot of give to us. That's the difference in the teams right now.

"If you're only going to play in this league hard and with great purpose when it's going well for you, then you're going to be limited because many times in this league, it doesn't go well for you."

Houston (5-3), a team on the rise looking to tie San Antonio for the lead in the Southwest Division, was in complete control for 2 1/2 quarters, building a 19-point lead at one point.

"Our bench turned the game around for us and gave us an opportunity to come back and win the game," Duncan said. "We were not good defensively in the first half, and then the effort in the second half was our best defense of the year."

With a lift from their reserves, the Spurs went on a 30-4 run bridging the final two quarters to take an 88-79 lead with 4:11 left.

"Our starters didn't play very smart in the first half, but they came back," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "Beno (Udrih), Robert (Horry) and Francisco (Elson) are the reason we won this game."

The Spurs scored the last 13 points of the third. Michael Finley started the run with a driving layup with 2:36 left and Horry hit a 3-pointer before Udrih canned a pair of shots from the arc around a layup.

"I've been 0-for-all year (on 3-pointers) so it was about due," Horry said. "It was just a matter of time. It's been a very frustrating start for me. I've been telling everybody how much I don't like the ball at all."

Finley opened the fourth with a turnaround jumper before Horry's fast-break dunk tied the game at 75-75. Ginobili then took charge, scoring on a pair of layups, a 3-pointer and another layup before Duncan converted a layup to cap the run and give the Spurs an 88-79 lead with 4:11 to go.

Yao Ming scored 20 points but shot just 7-of-21 from the field for Houston. He had scored 69 points in his previous two games on 26-of-40 shooting.

"Pop (Popovich) put me on him in the second half, and we tried to make it crowded on him in the lane and contested every shot he took," Duncan said. "Yao is much the same player, but his quality of touches is better."

Duncan added 15 rebounds and reserves Finley, Udrih, Horry and Elson combined for 41 points.

Tracy McGrady scored 26 points - 21 in the first half - for the Rockets, who shot just 2-of-17 in the final period to have their four-game winning streak snapped.

"We maybe felt too good about ourselves," McGrady said. "We stopped fighting, and when you've got a team down like San Antonio, you have to continue to execute and provide that kind of energy because they're too good.

"When things started to get tight, we folded. In order for us to be at that level that San Antonio is at, we have to learn how to close these types of games out. Hopefully, we learn from this mistake."

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