for this game

Spurs finally get the best of a team from Texas

Nov 17, 2007 - 6:47 AM By Brian Guerra PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

SAN ANTONIO (Ticker) - The San Antonio Spurs beat one of their Texas rivals for the first time this season on Friday, posting a 90-84 victory over the Houston Rockets.

Tim Duncan carried the Spurs with 13 rebounds and a season-high 25 points, including 14 in the first quarter.

The Rockets were without their top scorer Tracy McGrady, who sprained his right elbow Wednesday night. Houston missed his 26.8 points per game, but Luis Scola came off the bench to score a career-high 20 points to help fill the void.

Scola didn't seem interested in his stats, though.

"The only thing that matters tonight is that we lost," he said. "We had a chance to win and played really solid, but the Spurs won. They are the team to beat. They are the champions."

For the Spurs, the win against one of their division-rival was a relief.

"That was a win we had to have," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "Obviously, Houston was at a disadvantage without Tracy, but those are the games you don't want to lose. The other team's fired up, and if they get that win, it's kind of a double-win for them. And, if you lose the game when you have the advantage, you feel doubly bad about it. We're really thrilled we were able to get the win."

Prior to the game, the Spurs were 0-2 against Texas teams. Their losses to Houston and Dallas, however, were both away from the AT&T Center, where the Spurs are 6-0.

Once again, Manu Ginobili, who finished with 19 points and 9 rebounds provided the much-needed spark when things got close.

The game was tied 80-80 with 3:48 left in the nip-and-tuck fourth quarter after a Scola jumper. Ginobili then assisted on the next three Spurs' baskets, and added an exclamation point with a driving layup around Yao Ming.

It gave the Spurs a four-point lead with less than a minute left, and forced Houston to start fouling. The Rockets missed their final four shots, allowing San Antonio to stay tied with New Orleans atop the Southwest Division.

"We gave ourselves a chance to win in the fourth quarter," Rockets coach Rick Adelman said, "But just couldn't get over the hump."

Michael Finley was nearly perfect from the field, tying a season high with 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting. For the Rockets, Shane Battier added a season-high 16 points and Yao had 14 points and nine rebounds.

The Rockets know they had a chance to sneak out of San Antonio with a win, but they couldn't make the plays down the stretch.

"The Spurs are a great team. You don't win four championships by accident," Battier said. "The Spurs know how to finish games, and that's what makes them so tough."

Houston held a 42-33 lead late in the first half, but Duncan's fadeaway bankshot over Yao with 1:52 left in the quarter capped a 9-0 run by the Spurs, who managed to take a 49-46 lead at the half.

The Rockets pulled to 61-60 with 2:44 left in the third, but Ginobili took control, and the Spurs went on an 8-0 run. Ginobili grabbed three straight defensive rebounds, hit two 3-pointers, and found an open Francisco Elson for a jumpshot, and the Spurs took a 69-60 lead.

Duncan helped seal the win late. With the Rockets down by four, Yao grabbed an offensive rebound and tried to go back up with a quick layup.

But Duncan was right behind him, and managed to block Yao's shot.

"That's why he's the focal point of our team," Popovich said. "He's the foundation here and there's times where he'll get a silent 20 and create so many other shots for the guy. That's the kind of versatility he has in this game and that's why he's an all-star. Being able to play on both sides of the ball, that's why he's a two-time MVP."

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