Ginobili scores 20 as Spurs keep rolling along


HOUSTON (AP) -- Five San Antonio Spurs scored in double figures.
One surprise scorer led them all.

Emanuel Ginobili scored a career-high 20 points as the Spurs
held off the Houston Rockets for a 97-88 victory Sunday.

The Spurs won for the 13th time in 14 games and improved their
record in 2003 to 22-4. Tim Duncan had 17 points, Tony Parker and
Malik Rose each had 16, and David Robinson had 14.

''We played real well together, I'm real proud,'' Ginobili said.
''We have to keep doing the same thing. Twenty points just happened
today. I don't know if it will happen again. I don't care if it

''It's just one of 82 games. With our scoring team, it's not
easy to do. It just happened. I don't give it much importance. I'm
happy to help the team but it's not the most important thing.''

The Spurs never trailed and they were up 87-70 with 6:04 to play
when the Rockets closed to 94-88 with 52 seconds left. Glen
Rice scored 11 of his 19 points in the final 5:43.

''He's becoming more and more important to this team,'' Spurs
coach Gregg Popovich said of Ginobili. ''He plays defense, he gets
steals, he gets loose balls. He's just an outstanding player. The
league is beginning to see there's more there than they thought.''

Steve Francis led the Rockets with 21 points, and Yao Ming had
14 points and nine rebounds.

''We've got to do something about our slow starts defensively,''
Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. ''We got into a comfort zone
and then when it got to the embarrassing stage we picked it up
later on.''

The Spurs used a 12-4 run to build on their 51-39 advantage at
halftime. Even an 11-1 run by the Rockets couldn't get their
deficit below 10 points, and San Antonio kept Houston at bay and
led 74-59 going into the fourth quarter.

Duncan and Parker peppered the Rockets' defense in the first
quarter and Ginobili scored nine points early in the second as the
Spurs kept their big lead at halftime despite a late second-quarter
11-2 spurt by the Rockets.

''He's a fiery guy, very talented,'' Tomjanovich said of
Ginobili. ''He's an intense guy who attacks the game with a
passion. He has a lot of tools that you don't see a lot early
because of the injuries.''

Ginobili was activated from the injury list Dec. 29 after
missing 11 games because of a sprained right ankle.

Parker had 10 points in the first quarter and Duncan scored
eight to give the Spurs a 30-18 lead.

''If we can keep our turnovers down, our assists up and keep the
opponents offensive rebounds down, we will do well,'' Duncan said.
''We are playing very well and we are right where we want to be.''

Robinson, retiring after this season, likely played his final
game in Compaq Center. He chatted briefly with Rockets coach Rudy
Tomjanovich and Rockets broadcaster and Hall of Famer Calvin

''I have great memories here,'' Robinson said. ''Playing against
Hakeem (Olajuwon) was one of the motivating factors for me early in
my career. He was tough, him and Patrick Ewing were the guys I
wanted to be like when I first got in the league.''

Game notes
The Rockets are 12-2 this season when Steve Francis and
Cuttino Mobley each score 20 points. ... Yao and Duncan are two of
only six players born outside the United States to be selected No.
1 in the NBA draft. Ewing, Olajuwon, Michael Olowokandi, and Mychal
Thompson are the others.