The Spurs came into Sunday's match-up with the Rockets down their starting point guard (Tony Parker) and their budding star (Kawhi Leonard). Turns out they didn't need them at all, with the Spurs forcing the Rockets into 24 turnovers and hitting clutch free throws in the final minutes to outlast their East Texas rival, 110-106.
Josh Smith got his first start as a member of the Houston Rockets and was immediately feasted upon in the low post by Tim Duncan, giving up a quick four points before Kevin McHale switched Dwight Howard on to Duncan. The future hall of famer was unfazed, seemingly scoring at will against Howard as well.
Corey Brewer had his best game as a Rocket and his best game of the season. He was unconscious in the first half, hitting a three pointer to end the first quarter off a steal from Donatas Motiejunas. At the end of the half, he took an outlet pass, drove to the far wing, ignored James Harden's calls for a pass that would have given him a wide open three at the buzzer, but Brewer swished a pull up baseline shot with 0.2 on the clock. This bucket cut the Spurs lead to one, 56-55 at half time. Brewer finished the game with 25 points in 24 minutes off the bench.
The rest of the bench combined for 12 points and seven rebounds in a combined 49 minutes of action. The free throw shooting was another low point of this contest. The Rockets were 18-31 from the line, good enough for 58.1% for those keeping score at home. That's 13% below their season average and almost 17% below the league average. Might have been better if Harden had gotten to the line more than six times.
Harden led the Rockets with 28 points and had nine turnovers, Howard had 24 points and 17 rebounds, D-Mo was the only other Rocket in double figures with 11.
Rockets return home Monday to play the Washington Wizards.