The weather outside was frightful but the Spurs shooting was delightful for San Antonio fans as they drop Houston 103-95. The Rockets fall below .500 for the first time since November 16, lose their fifth in a row and 10th straight to the Spurs.
What would prove to be a very up and down game ended down for Houston as the Spurs got a balanced attack with four players in double digits but the man on the floor was Antonio Daniels who scored a career high 26 points and dished a season high 10 assists to lead the Spurs. Tim Duncan (20 points on 8-18 shooting, 10 boards), David Robinson (17 points, 12 boards) and Derrick Anderson (11 points) all had solid games.
The Rockets got huge games from Steve Francis (21 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists) and Cuttino Mobley (17 points) despite both of them having to leave after the third quarter to rest their injuries before the Seattle game on Wednesday.
Robinson came storming out of the gate scoring 12 of the Spurs first 16 points and abused Hakeem Olajuwon and Kenny Thomas. Olajuwon, in particular, really struggled getting into foul trouble early and finishing only 1 of 8 from the floor with 3 points and 6 rebounds.
Another victim of early foul trouble was Shandon Anderson who finished strong with 13 points but was limited to 21 minutes of action. In fact, Anderson and Olajuwon weren't the only one's struggling with the refs.
The officiating left a lot to be desired on both ends of the floor and it was never more evident than in the first quarter. Not only did Olajuwon and Anderson have to leave after picking up two tic-tac fouls a piece with only 5 minutes gone, but Spurs coach Greg Popovich even got in the act.
Just before the end of the first quarter, things got a little weird. Francis ran some time off the clock and Daniels grabbed him seemingly before Steve could get a shot off because the Spurs had a foul to give. Franchise, in Barkley-esque fashion, heaved a shot up that miraculously went in and, according to the official, it counted plus the foul.
Popovich went OFF, picked up two quick T's and exited to the locker room. Bill Worrell quipped as Popovich left, "And I bet he got that turtleneck for Christmas," referring to the black beatnik look he was sporting. Hilarious! Even funnier was the fact that the Rockets turned that into a 5-point play trimming the Spurs 11-point lead to 6 in one trip down the floor.
The Spurs began to assert themselves in the second stretching the lead to 12, their largest thus far. Francis and Mobley came surging back. Francis hit a three, came tearing down the floor and yelled to Rockets trainer Keith Jones, "I feel great!" Francis had to beg Jones to let him play because of his sore ankle. Mobley answered with 11 points in the quarter, sore elbow and all, on a big alley-oop dunk from Francis and a slam over Duncan that tweaked his elbow - he winced in pain as the teams went into a timeout.
Both teams were shooting lights out by the end of the half (50% each) but more officiating stupidity finished off the second like it had ended the first. Both Olajuwon and Anderson (who had JUST checked in) were whistled for their third fouls with under 40 seconds left. Dumb. The Spurs, however, led by only 6 at the half.
San Antonio really began to assert themselves in the second half building as much as an 18 point lead by the middle of the fourth quarter. Daniels went nuts hitting 3 three-pointer's and Duncan really began to put the moves on everyone. Mo Taylor had been quiet since his monster slam over Duncan in the first (see pic) to go with 8 points in that quarter, but had a solid second half finishing with 12 points and 7 boards on 6 of 12 shooting.
By the end of the third, Olajuwon and Anderson had their fourth fouls (what a shock!) and the Rocks tried to keep it close, but the Spurs ran it up to a 15 point lead and finished the quarter ahead by 14.
Unfortunately for Houston, Francis and Mobley both left for the locker room after the third quarter. With a game against Seattle looming, no chances were going to be taken with the tandem. HUGE props to both of them for showing a lot of heart going out and playing hard (and well) despite the pain, but...
It was ugly! The Spurs ran off to an 18-point lead with Daniels and Anderson (that's Derrick for those of you keeping score at home) leading the way. Everything seemed to be working for the Spurs who shot 48% from the field for the game and 50% from the three point line.
Honestly, they are a tough team on both ends of the floor. They have a lot of weapons, are very unselfish and play strong defense. They look a lot like the Rockets during their championship years, but...
The Rockets managed one more furious rally with Anderson (Shandon this time around), Walt Williams, Thomas and Moochie Norris leading the charge. Williams continues to battle a horrible slump going only 1 for 6 but the 1 was a three pointer that capped a 9-0 run and got the Rockets within 8 with 5 minutes left. Williams made up for his shot by hustling and getting 8 boards.
Norris continues to play well off the bench picking up 10 points and Thomas worked hard in the paint getting 10 points and 9 boards.
The hustle nearly paid off. The game was as close as 6 points with under a minute to play in regulation when Norris turned the ball over. The turnover (1 of only 12 for the Rockets) was converted on a layup by Daniels and the game was over.
Make no mistake, the Spurs are a very good team. Houston had its chances but just couldn't capitalize when necessary. The loss created an ugly trifecta for Houston (5 losses in a row, 10 losses to SA in a row and below .500) who has to come home for a back-to-back against Gary Payton and the Seattle Supersonics.
Fortunately, the Sonics got whipped in Dallas while the Rockets were losing to San Antonio. Payton even logged 44 minutes. Maybe he'll be tired. Then again, he is facing Francis who we hope (along with Mobley) is ready to go because it could be another cold night if Houston drops their sixth in a row to the Sonics.
The loss represents the 10th straight to the Spurs and the 40th meeting between Olajuwon and Robinson.
Shandon Anderson and Taylor looked very agressive early including a vicious slam by Taylor over Duncan, but Robinson who has 12 of the Spurs first 16 points, was hot as well.
Olajuwon and Anderson both had to sit early in the first quarter with two fouls.
Spurs were shooting 60% both inside and outside the arc by midway through the second quarter showing why they are the number one team in the NBA in three point percentage.
Francis had a flip alley-oop to Mobley on a fast break in the second that was simply nasty as was Mobleys hard slam over Duncan that seemed to tweak Mobley's sore elbow..
Olajuwon and Anderson managed to pick up their third fouls with less than 40 seconds left in the half.
Olajuwon shot 3 jump hooks in the fourth quarter. The jump hook has become rare for Hakeem since his knee injury over a year ago.
Found out in the fourth that Cato sat out the game due to soreness in his ankle.
Rockets were down by 18 in the fourth but pulled within 6 only to drop the game.
By the way, how in the hell does Daniels go off like that?