(The Sports Xchange) - Lessons learned. Statement made. Moving on.
The San Antonio Spurs wiped away the hurt from their worst loss of the season with a dominating 130-99 win against the Houston Rockets on Wednesday to remain undefeated at home.
Forward LaMarcus Aldridge poured in 25 points and pulled down 10 rebounds to lead five San Antonio players who scored in double figures.
The Spurs showed no hangover from a 30-point road defeat at the hands of Golden State on Monday and picked up where they left off in the AT&T Center by swamping Houston from the opening tip.
Asked if his team responded well after the loss and an extensive film session Wednesday morning to review what went wrong, San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich had a typically succinct answer: “I guess you have to say ‘yes.’ You saw it.”
San Antonio cemented the outcome by outscoring the Rockets by 23 points in the middle two quarters, relegating the fourth quarter mostly to a contest between the two teams’ bench players.
The Spurs produced their season high for points. Forward Kawhi Leonard and guard Danny Green scored 18 points apiece, guard Tony Parker added 15 points and seven assists and reserve center Boban Marjanovic added 13 points and 10 rebounds, all in the fourth quarter.
San Antonio (39-7) improved to 25-0 at home this season, the best start by a Western Conference team since the Portland Trail Blazers won their initial 26 home games in 1977-78.
The victory also allowed the Spurs to extend their regular-season home victory streak to 34 games, dating to an overtime loss to Cleveland last March. They also tied the best start in franchise history after 46 games.
“It was important for us to be ourselves again -- to play defense, to be active and to stop the other team from getting easy shots,” Aldridge said.
“I knew guys would come in tonight and be more locked in. Each player took it upon himself to get back to where we need to be.”
Houston (25-23), which had its three-game win streak snapped, was led by guard James Harden’s 20 points. Center Dwight Howard added 13 points and eight rebounds, reserve forwards Josh Smith and Terrence Jones scored 11 points each and reserve guard Jason Terry had 10.
The Rockets shot 52 free throws (making 35) to the Spurs’ 21 (with 18 makes).
The Spurs, using a smaller lineup with guard Kyle Anderson in the starting lineup in place of injured forward Tim Duncan, blitzed the Rockets early by hitting five of their first six shots from the field and building a 16-8 lead three minutes into the game.
“They beat us up, in every way, shape and form,” Houston coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “It was time to teach somebody a lesson and they taught us one tonight. We knew San Antonio was going to be ready to go after the loss they had and we didn’t draw a line in the sand. This game was claimed early.”
But the Rockets were hot as well, beginning 8 of 8 from the floor and bouncing back to take a 21-20 lead with 6:01 left in the quarter, setting the table for the shootout to come.
The pace slowed a bit through the rest of the quarter and San Antonio led 35-29 after scoring its most points in the first quarter this season.
Green hit 5 of 7 3-point attempts and had 15 points in the first half as the Spurs pushed their lead to 69-49 at halftime while scoring their most first-half points this season. By the midway point in the game, four San Antonio players (Green, Aldridge, Parker and Leonard) and two Houston players (Harden and Howard) already had scored in double figures.
The Rockets needed a huge turnaround in the third quarter, but the Spurs dominated those 12 minutes as well, boosting their lead to 30 points at 98-68 with2:17 left. Aldridge did the bulk of the damage for the Spurs by scoring 11 points in the quarter, which ended with San Antonio up 102-73.
“We have a lot of work to do and we have to go back to the drawing boards,” Harden said. “(San Antonio) plays well at home and they got a lot of confidence early on by hitting some shots. We have to figure out a way to be more aggressive; we just weren’t physical enough with them.”
Editing by Sudipto Ganguly