SAN ANTONIO (AP) - Gregg Popovich hasn't often been thrilled with the Spurs' defense this season. A strong late effort against the Rockets, showed that things might be starting to change.
With Tim Duncan leading the way, San Antonio held Houston to 2-of-10 shooting in overtime in the Spurs' 101-95 victory Wednesday night.
Duncan had two steals and a block in overtime to help the Spurs improve to 7-0 at home. The last time the Spurs won seven straight at home to start the season was 2007-08 when they went 13-0.
Tony Parker scored 28 points on 12-of-22 shooting to lead the Spurs (7-4). He made four free throws late in overtime to help seal the victory.
``He's unbelievable,' Duncan said. ``I know he's going to be worn out tomorrow. He did just about everything for us. He continued to attack every time down the floor. He continued to call his number and he found a way to get things done. Whether it be finding open shooters or getting all the way to the rack, making jump shots in the lane; whatever it may be.'
Duncan had 17 points and 11 rebounds, and Kawhi Leonard added 11 points.
Kyle Lowry scored 22 points for Houston (3-7), and Luis Scola had 20. Kevin Martin added 18, and Patrick Patterson had 10 points and seven rebounds.
``I'm still a big part of this team, and I want to be a leader of this team,' Duncan said. ``I want to be a leader on and off the floor. I want Pop and the rest of the guys to count on me to do that, and I'm ready to do that.'
He proved that with 1:18 left in overtime, when his block on one end led to a fast break on the other - and Richard Jefferson's 3-pointer that gave the Spurs a lead they wouldn't lose the rest of the way.
``It gets tougher for everybody down the stretch,' Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. ``Everybody ties in a little bit more. The whistles get a little bit tighter. That's just the way it is.'
The Spurs played without backup point guard T.J. Ford. He will be out four to six weeks because of a torn left hamstring. Ford was injured Tuesday night in a loss at Milwaukee. San Antonio is already without top scorer Manu Ginobili for several more weeks because of a fractured fifth metacarpal.
Gary Neal had moved into the starting lineup to take Ginobili's spot, but with Ford out, Neal returned to the bench to assume backup point guard duties. Leonard started for the Spurs.
It's a role he might not relinquish any time soon.
``It's huge for us to have a guy on the team that can do similar things to what Bruce (Bowen) did in the past,' Popovich said about Leonard. ``This young man's got a lot to learn, but as I've said a lot of times, he's very willing, he's very versatile, and I think he's got the ability to be one heck of a player - and he wants to be. We're excited about him.'
The Spurs hit 41 of 96 shots, and Houston was 42 of 92. The Rockets hit only three of 21 3-pointers.
``That's just how the game goes,' Martin said of his team's struggles after shooting 65 percent in the first quarter. ``Percentages always catch up in this league, so that's just how it went. It wasn't in our favor.'
NOTES: San Antonio recalled first-round pick Cory Joseph, a point guard the team selected in the first round of the June draft, from the Development League. The Spurs also added Malcolm Thomas, a 6-foot-9 rookie forward. Thomas, who teamed with Spurs rookie Leonard at San Diego State, had been playing for Los Angeles in the D-League. ``He's an athletic young man who has a lot of energy, has some good skills, so we'll take a look at him,' Popovich said. Neither rookie played against Houston. ... With a free throw with 4:54 in the game, Duncan moved past Larry Bird for 27th place on the scoring list. Duncan has 21,888 points. When told he hit a free throw to pass Bird, Duncan, who has had plenty of struggles at the line said, ``I didn't want to pass him. Out of respect, I was missing them for him.'
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved