The San Antonio Spurs fell just short of coming all the way back from a big deficit against on Sunday in Dallas. On Wednesday, against another member of the Texas Triangle, the Spurs actually did the deed, erasing an 18-point third quarter margin to beat the Houston Rockets, 99-91.
It looked for a while like Houston had bolted too far ahead to let the Spurs back in the game. Kevin Martin shot Houston to a double-digit lead almost instantly, blazing over screens to ditch Kawhi Leonard and Richard Jefferson and dropping 11 of his 32 points in the first six minutes of the game. Houston also controlled the painted area in the early going, stifling any interior looks and limiting San Antonio to rushed attempts while gobbling up rebounds at both ends.
But the Spurs built a bit of momentum by sinking some buckets to end the first half, then made the necessary adjustments to gain on Houston beginning in the third quarter. Kyle Lowry did what he could to keep the Rockets afloat by attacking the rim, but the Spurs adapted their game plan a bit on both ends to chip away at the lead. On offense, there were increasing efforts to feed Tim Duncan inside. Duncan, ever shifty and with a noticeable pep in his step, flummoxed Samuel Dalembert into foul trouble, then mesmerized Jordan Hill with post moves and inside cuts. On defense, Gregg Popovich shelved Leonard and put Danny Green on Martin. Green, playing in front of his North Carolina coach, Roy Williams (who sat courtside in an argyle vest [yes, that's important]), pestered Martin to no end. Green chased him wildly around screens and hopped around waving his arms enough to force Martin farther and farther out on the perimeter and distract him on outside attempts.
In the fourth, Tony Parker came alive to drill some pull-up jumpers and carve the Rockets up off the dribble, getting some big outside shots from Matt Bonner, Gary Neal, and Green as well. After a back-and-forth period, a Neal runner put them up two, Bonner's signature catapult three-pointer made it five, and the Spurs hit their free throws to seal the deal. 'Twas a rousing win in front of a raucous home crowd, and a vintage showing from the Spurs' veteran stars (49 points combined for Duncan and Parker).