for this game

Spurs drub Rockets for seventh straight win

Mar 31, 2008 - 2:03 AM SAN ANTONIO (Ticker) -- With the playoffs less than three weeks away, the San Antonio Spurs may be peaking at the right time.

Michael Finley scored 18 of his 22 points in the first half as the Spurs routed the Houston Rockets, 109-88, Sunday for their seventh straight victory.

"It wasn't easy," Finley said. "I just had good looks at the basket, and I made the most out of those opportunities."

San Antonio has struggled at times this season but during the winning streak, the defending champions have sent a message that they still could be the team to beat in the Western Conference.

The Spurs (51-23) remained just percentage points behind the New Orleans Hornets (50-22) in the battle for the top mark in the West. They have eight games left and the Hornets have 10.

San Antonio put together one of its best games of the season Sunday, blistering the Rockets by shooting 64 percent (25-of-39) from the field in the first half.

"He (Finley) was on fire, and we went to him quite a bit," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. "He was shooting very aggressively and shooting quickly. He was feeling good."

Tony Parker also scored 22 points for the Spurs, who opened 66-48 lead at halftime and maintained a comfortable margin throughout the second half.

"It was a solid game, a solid win," Parker said. "But we have to stay focused because we have a lot of games coming up."

The Spurs' winning streak has coincided with some torrid play by Finley, who is shooting just under 70 percent (31-of-45) in his last four games. That follows an 0-of-7 effort in an 88-81 win at Dallas on March 23.

"When he's out there hitting like that, it's just another weapon out there," Spurs swingman Ime Udoka said. "He takes pressure off the other scorers."

San Antonio leveled off somewhat in the second half but still finished at 43 percent (44-of-83).

"You just have to be solid at both ends to beat those guys," Rockets forward Shane Battier said. "You have to execute, and we had a lack of execution on both ends. And, you can't win San Antonio without execution on both ends."

Luis Scola scored 24 points for the Rockets, who have cooled off considerably since their 22-game winning streak, losing four of their last seven games.

Even though Houston put together the second-longest run in NBA history, it could open the playoffs on the road. The Rockets (49-24) have dropped into a tie for fifth in the West with the Phoenix Suns.

"The defense was outstanding for 48 minutes," Popovich added. "I thought that's what fueled us to get the win against a really good team."

Houston's starting backcourt of Tracy McGrady (5-of-22) and Rafer Alston (4-of-16) shot a combined 9-of-38 from the field Sunday.

"We just didn't play very well," Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. "They had us on our heels, and we never got hold of the game."

The Spurs were in control virtually from start to finish, leading by as many as 25 points late in the third quarter. The closest Houston got was 97-80 on Bobby Jackson's jumper with 5:33 remaining.

"Bruce (Bowen) did a great job (on McGrady)," Parker added. "Everybody was focused on the weakside help. He had couple of easy dunks in the first half but other than that, we did a pretty good job on him."

McGrady and Alston finished with just 13 points apiece. They combined to go 0-for-6 from 3-point range.

"Without (the injured) Yao (Ming), the onus falls on Tracy," Bowen added. "He's going to create a lot of attention that causes us to prepare for him the way we did today."

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