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Rockets rout Spurs without McGrady

Nov 30, 2008 - 6:22 AM By Gene Duffey PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

HOUSTON (Ticker) -- Houston Rockets guard Luther Head didn't find out he was starting Saturday night's game against the San Antonio Spurs until the team meeting a half-hour before tip-off.

But the backup guard took advantage of the opportunity, scoring 21 points to lead the Rockets to a 103-84 victory over their Southwest Division rivals.

Head had not started a game this season and played in only five. Even with Tracy McGrady missing his second game in a row with soreness in his left knee, Head had no reason to believe he would get the start. After all, Shane Battier had just returned from offseason foot surgery and he started in McGrady's place on Wednesday.

"He's done it before," Houston coach Rick Adelman said of Head's performance. "We felt it could give us something at the start of the game. I didn't want to start Shane. I wanted to save him for when (Manu) Ginobli came in the game. (Luther) exceeded everyone's expectations."

Head scored two more points than he had all season, shooting 7-of-11 from the field. He made a pair of 3-pointers and added five rebounds and four assists.

"It shows you how a guy who has worked, and continued to work when he stepped on the court and play 41 minutes when he hasn't been playing at all," Adelman said. "That's the kind of shape he's in."

"It's a situation I've been put in this year, to be ready when my team calls on me," Head said. "Today I was ready. My teammates found me all the time. I was making shots, penetrating to the basket, getting into transition."

Houston used a 19-6 run in the first quarter to open a 30-16 lead and widened it to 42-23 early in the second.

San Antonio fought its way back within 60-58 in the third quarter. But Tony Parker missed two free throws with 7:40 left in the period that would have tied the game. Head scored the next five points and the Rockets were off and running again.

The Rockets followed one of their worst performances of the season, a one-point loss at home Wednesday to Indiana, with one of their best.

"The first 18 minutes was about as good as it gets," Adelman said. "After they made their run, we're pretty solid all the way through."

Ron Artest chipped in 16 points for Houston and Battier 15 of the bench, seven Rockets scoring in double figures.

"I made a conscious effort to do that, move the ball, mix it up calling the plays," Houston point guard Rafer Alston said. "Tonight the ball was hopping."

It was Head who made the difference.

"That's the way I've been dealt this year," Head said. "I've got to stay ready. Hopefully it works out they give me an opportunity to play more."

Tim Duncan and Matt Bonner shared the scoring lead for the Spurs with 17 each. But Duncan shot only 1-of-9 in the first half, scoring just two points.

"I played an awful game in the first half, I couldn't hit any of my shots," Duncan said. "I did a little better in the second half."

Adelman attributed some of that to Houston's defense, particularly 6-6 forward Chuck Hayes, who guarded Duncan for quite a while.

"It is not easy guarding that man," Hayes said of Duncan. "That's a Hall of Famer. I just body him, push him out there, move my feet. I do the Shane Battier and put a hand in his face."

Duncan, making up for his poor showing in the first half, finally put his offensive game together after the break. He scored 12 of his 17 points in the third quarter, but the Rockets still trailed, 84-70 through three.

Parker, making his first start in almost a month and playing in just his second game since November 7, got the Spurs rolling midway through the second period. The veteran guard scored eight points in a three-minute span as San Antonio sliced Houston's lead to 52-44 with 1:53 left in the first half.

Houston did not score a field goal in the last 5 1/2 minutes of the first half, but still led 56-49 at halftime.

The Spurs were hurt by an uncharacteristically poor shooting performance, as they hit just 38 percent (29-of-77). Duncan was a particularly woeful 6-of-18.

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