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Spurs dominate in paint, hold off late Rockets rally

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Needing a score to hold off the late-surging
Houston Rockets, Robert Horry came through once again with a
clutch, 3-pointer for the San Antonio Spurs.

"I'm just happy we got a win," said Horry, who had 16 points
in the Spurs' 86-80 victory Thursday night.

Tracy McGrady led Houston with a game-high 27 points and 12
rebounds, but was held to 0-7 shooting in the first half. Yao Ming
had 19 points, but just one in the second half.

Tim Duncan had 19 points and nine rebounds and Manu Ginobili had
15 points and four steals. San Antonio, which shot 46 percent
compared to Houston's 38.9 percent, dominated on defense and
inside, scoring 52 points in the paint in a game that seemed as if
the Spurs would cruise to victory.

After Juwan Howard's layup cut Houston's deficit to 64-52 with
2:58 left in the third quarter, San Antonio scored the next eight
points to stretch their lead to 20 points. Horry scored the last
six points of the run, capped by a pair of free throws for a 72-52
lead with 11:19 remaining in the game.

However, the Rockets scored six straight points to make it 72-58
on David Wesley's jumper with 9:43 left. McGrady began to score
rapidly late, including two jumpers and a free throw that cut the
lead to six with 2:24 to go.

"We just have to make sure that we don't make mistakes in the
fourth quarter like we did tonight," said Tony Parker, who had 17
points for the Spurs.

McGrady seemed on track to possibly repeat his heroics from last
Dec. 9 when he scored nine-points in the final 35 seconds against
the Spurs, including a last-second three, that gave the Rockets an
improbable 81-80 win at home.

McGrady "scares me from the time I get up in the morning until
the game ends," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "He's done it
game after game after game. ... He's like a Robert (Horry) in that
he's a pro. He's confident. He single-handedly brought them back."

McGrady credited the Spurs' Bruce Bowen, who guarded him most of
the night, in helping stop the surge.

"Facing a guy like Bruce Bowen, you just have to try to block
everything out and concentrate on the moment," McGrady said.
"That's a tough night of work. He's one of the premier defenders
in this league and on a fresh night, he's going to make your night
miserable."

And despite Houston's efforts, it was Ginobili's pair of free
throws and Parker responded with four free throws of his own down
the stretch that iced the win.

It was the Spurs defense that Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy
credited for ending his team's five-game road trip on a sour note.

"They are just better than us right now," he said. "There are
some things we need to do better to get to that level they are at
right now....They just dominated us going to the basket tonight.
They drove by us at will and pick and rolled us to death."

Game notes
Brent Barry (low back sprain) and Michael Finley (left
groin tightness) were inactive for the Spurs and Lonny Baxter, Dion
Glover (right knee) and Bob Sura (right knee) were on the inactive
list for the Rockets. ... Duncan leads the league in double-doubles
with seven. ... The Spurs have won 16 straight at home against the
Rockets. Houston's last victory at San Antonio came April 20, 1997.
... The Spurs activated Alex Scales before the game but he did not
play.