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James Harden’s triple double lifts Rockets over Spurs

The Rockets went into San Antonio and sneaked out with a close victory.

NBA: Houston Rockets at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

James Harden finished with 24 points, 12 rebounds and 15 assists, and the Rockets forced the Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard into a miss as time drained away, sending Houston to a huge 101-99 victory over San Antonio.

Despite the triple dip, the Beard actually almost blew the game for Houston, as he missed two free throws, a three pointer and turned the ball over on a charge, all with under 90 seconds remaining, to allow the Spurs to get back within two.

Leonard, who led the Spurs with 34 points, couldn’t get one in past Trevor Ariza and Nene Hilario however, and the Rockets head back to Houston with 3-2 record on their five-game road trip and a 5-3 record overall.

The Rockets also got 20 points and 8 rebounds from Ryan Anderson, as he shot 4-6 from beyond the arc and scored 20 or more points in his second straight game. The sharpshooting big man looks to be catching fire offensively after a slow start.

Houston also received 15 points from Eric Gordon, 12 from Clint Capela and a surprising 10 points off the bench from Sam Dekker. Despite a couple of mistakes defensively, Dekker was a spark plug in 18 minutes of action, grabbing 7 boards, knocking down 2 triples and also snagging a steal and a block. It was his best game as a Rocket.

The Rockets also played solid defense for the second straight game. One game after holding the Washington Wizards to 41 percent from the field, Houston followed that up by keeping San Antonio at 39.3 percent shooting. They also outrebounded the Spurs 45-39.

The Spurs had little help offensively outside of Leonard, as LaMarcus Aldridge had 15 points on just 5-15 shooting. Houston may have finally found an antidote for the traditional Rocket-killer, and that’s having the 6’11” San Antonio power forward chase Anderson around the perimeter all night.

Houston also finished with more points in the paint than the Spurs (48-40) and more fast break points (25-16), and the only thing that kept the game close was the usual deluge of Rockets turnovers. They finished with 19 for the game.

The Rockets were actually up 13 points at one point in the first half before allowing the Spurs to close the gap to 63-60 at the break. And then they went up 11 again in the second half, before letting the Spurs crawl their way back in it with some sloppy execution down the stretch.

Don’t look now, but the Rockets are actually in first place in the Southwest Division at this early stage. The Spurs suddenly don’t look very Spur-like, losing their third home game already this season, which is three times as many as they lost all of last season. And as long as the Beard is doing stuff like this all season, the Rockets are going to be battling out for that division.

The Rockets now have a much-needed two nights’ rest after the long road trip and play again on Saturday night at the Toyota Center against these very same Spurs. You can bet Greg Popovich will be coming to H-town with some adjustments, so let’s see if Mike D’Antoni can counter.

For now though, enjoy your Southwest Division first-place Rockets.