Parker made three inside baskets, including a rare dunk off his
own steal, during a decisive 14-3 run in the fourth quarter of a
99-81 win over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night.
Parker went 6-for-7 in the second half and finished with 22
points, but Spurs coach Gregg Popovich only wanted to talk about
"On defense, he sealed the game for us," Popovich said.
"Nobody notices it, they just notice what people do offensively,
but on defense, he was very, very good."
In the first Spurs-Rockets matchup in early December, McGrady
stunned San Antonio by scoring 13 points in the final 35 seconds to
lead Houston to a one-point win.
In the second Rockets triumph, McGrady hit a 3-pointer with 35
seconds remaining to end the Spurs' comeback hopes.
But on Wednesday, the last of his team-high 22 points came on a
layup with five minutes left to bring the Rockets within three at
79-76. He took only one more shot, missing a 3-pointer with San
Antonio leading by 15.
"I think I'm being too passive," said McGrady, who shot only
7-for-21. "I'm trying to stay in the offense and getting the other
guys involved -- that's how we've been winning. Sometimes it'll hurt
us because I do need to be more effective."
Parker, who had a season-high five steals, wanted to talk about
the breakaway slam with about three minutes left.
"The fans always get mad when I make layups, but sometimes I'm
tired," he said. "Tonight I felt good. I'll try to do more."
The victory was the Spurs' first in three tries against Houston
this season, and their 16th straight win at home. San Antonio is
24-1 at the SBC Center.
Tim Duncan scored 30 points, including his third 3-pointer of
the season, and had 11 rebounds for the Spurs. Manu Ginobili added
Yao Ming had 20 points and Juwan Howard 16 for the Rockets, who
dropped their second in a row after winning eight straight before
the All-Star break.
"We're struggling to score -- I don't think we had a field goal
off the bench tonight," said Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy, whose
reserves went 0-for-11. "(The Spurs) had another level. That's why
they're the best team in the league."
Houston played without starting point guard Bob Sura, who has a
sore back. The team said Wednesday that Sura, averaging 10.8 points
and 5.3 assists, could be out for up to two weeks with the injury.
Ginobili opened the game with a 3-pointer and Parker made two
driving layups to give San Antonio a 9-4 lead in the first two
minutes. The Rockets followed with their own 9-4 run, with a
19-foot jumper by McGrady tying the score at 13.
Houston led 26-21 after one as the Spurs missed six of their
final eight shots of the period.
The Rockets made only five field goals in the second and missed
six straight shots at one point, but San Antonio couldn't take the
Down 40-34 late in the second, Parker made a pair of free throws
and a layup to cut Houston's lead to two. But Yao hit a 14-foot
turnaround jumper and foul shots by Jon Barry and Howard put the
Rockets up 45-38, matching their biggest lead of the half.<
^Notes:@The Spurs have beaten the Rockets 14 straight times in San
Antonio. ... Parker is averaging 21 points in seven games in
February. ... Houston is 6-10 without Sura this season ... Rod
Strickland, starting for Sura, scored four points and had five