HOUSTON: Dwight Howard helped overcome the loss of leading scorer James Harden as the Houston Rockets posted a 97-90 win over San Antonio to sweep the season series from the Spurs.
Howard shook off a slow start on Tuesday to finish with 23 points and 16 rebounds for the Rockets who also won the previous two contests against the Spurs this season.
Houston had to play without top gun Harden who was out with a thumb injury. Like Howard, Terrence Jones also stepped up with 21 points and nine rebounds and Jeremy Lin added 18 points and eight assists in front of a crowd of 18,314 at Toyota Center arena.
“We didn’t give up,” said Howard. “We kept fighting, we hit the offensive glass. Terrence got hot for a little bit and we just kept playing.”
The Rockets took the series from San Antonio this season for the first time since 1996-97. Tim Duncan started with the Spurs a year later.
“I thought, defensively, we did a pretty decent job of controlling the game for a long time, and then it just got away from us,” said Duncan, who recently surpassed Shaquille O’Neal for sole possession of sixth place on the NBA’s blocked shots list and moved past Allen Iverson for 20th all-time in points.
San Antonio has dropped back-to-back games for the first time this season after losing at Miami in a 2013 NBA finals rematch on Sunday.
To make matters worse, the injury-depleted Spurs might have lost star Manu Ginobili to an injury. Ginobili left the game in the third quarter with a possible hamstring injury which he appeared to aggravated on a dunk.
The Spurs were already without starters Tiago Splitter and Kawhi Leonard as well as reserve Danny Green.
San Antonio is two and a half games behind Oklahoma City for top spot in the Western Conference.
The Rockets were playing the first of two road games in Texas. They face the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday.