Regular Season Series (Game 3 of 4)

Series starts 12/3

Game 1: Tuesday, December 3rd
Game 2: Monday, January 20th
Game 3: Sunday, March 2nd
Game 4: Thursday, March 27th

Spurs 97


Rockets 88


    Coverage: FSSW

    3:00 PM ET, March 2, 2003

    1 2 3 4 T
    SA 30 21 23 2397
    HOU 18 21 20 2988

    Top Performers

    SA: M. Ginobili 20 Pts, 2 Reb, 4 Ast, 3 Stl

    Hou: S. Francis 21 Pts, 8 Reb, 8 Ast, 2 Stl

    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

    Ginobili has increased his regular-season scoring average from 7.6 to 9.6 during the playoffs.

    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 does.

    ''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 Murphy.

    ''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.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 97 88
    FGM-FGA 36-76 (.474) 35-77 (.455)
    3PM-3PA 4-11 (.364) 4-16 (.250)
    FTM-FTA 21-27 (.778) 14-16 (.875)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 11-38 10-38
    Assists 24 14
    Turnovers 11 16
    Steals 9 5
    Blocks 4 6
    Fast Break Points 5 2
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 13 (1/0) 26 (0/0)

    Top Performers

    San Antonio
    Manu Ginobili Ginobili
    Points: 20
    Reb: 2
    Ast: 4
    Stl: 3
    Blk: 0
    Steve Francis Francis
    Points: 21
    Reb: 8
    Ast: 8
    Stl: 2
    Blk: 0