<
>

Spurs set franchise record with 63rd win

HOUSTON (AP) -- Setting the franchise record for wins in a
regular season was never a goal of the San Antonio Spurs.

They fought hard for it anyway against the Houston Rockets on
Wednesday night.

Brent Barry scored 19 points and Michael Finley added 17 in the
Spurs' 89-87 victory. San Antonio finished the regular season
63-19, topping the 1994-95 team, which finished 62-20.

"We're concentrating on the playoffs and our goal is to win the
championship," said Barry, who went 7-for-12 from the field. "But
certainly 63 wins means something and says something about how we
played all season long."

Manu Ginobili had 11 points and six assists for the Spurs, who
played without Tim Duncan and Tony Parker. The two stars watched
the game from the bench in street clothes, resting for the
playoffs.

Ginobili is relieved the postseason has finally arrived.

"Our season is starting in a couple of days," Ginobili said.
"The last 10 games, you just wanted the regular season to finish
and get ready for the excitement. The atmosphere changes in one
second."

The Rockets, meanwhile, wrapped up their third losing season
since 1984. They won only 15 games at the Toyota Center, matching
the NBA's worst home record and are headed to the draft lottery for
the fifth time in seven seasons.

"It was nothing that other teams did to us," point guard Rafer
Alston said. "It was a lot of what we did to ourselves."

The finale exposed most of the weaknesses the Rockets had all
season -- they went 3-for-14 from 3-point range, gave up 12
3-pointers by the Spurs and committed 18 turnovers.

"The things we need to improve on are glaring," Houston coach
Jeff Van Gundy said. "We are where we deserve to be."

The short-handed Spurs still gave Houston a chance to end its
season with an unlikely upset.

The Spurs led 88-83 after Sean Marks' three-point play with 1:18
to go.

Stromile Swift, who led Houston with 18 points, lost the ball on
the Rockets' next possession, but then hit a mid-range jumper to
cut the deficit to three. Luther Head added two free throws to pull
Houston within one.

Chuck Hayes then tipped Fabricio Uberto's inbound pass and
Alston was fouled at the other end. But Alston missed both free
throw attempts with 7.5 seconds left.

Beno Udrih hit two free throws and Swift clanged a last-second
turnaround jumper off the front of the rim.

Barry said the final sequence was valuable for the Spurs'
reserves.

"It's a great opportunity for some of us to be in that
situation, where it's a close game and you have to execute and find
a way down the stretch," said Barry.

Finley swished three 3-pointers in the final 1:10 of a
slow-paced first half to give the Spurs a 43-36 lead at the break.
Barry sank another 3-pointer 12 seconds into the third quarter,
giving the Spurs their first double-digit edge.

The Rockets held the Spurs scoreless in the final 3 minutes of
the third and were down only six heading to the fourth.

The game had a quirky twist.

Barry's older brother, Jon, was the Rockets' leading scorer in
their home-court opener, scoring 24 in a Nov. 2 win over
Sacramento. Jon Barry was waived by Houston on March 1 and was
courtside for his brother's big night in the season finale, working
as an analyst for the Rockets' local television broadcast.

"Whether I do it in front of him on the court or in front of
him from the broadcast booth, it's not much different," Brent
Barry joked.

Before the game, Tracy McGrady, who missed the last 20 games and
34 in all with back problems, trotted onto the floor with his team,
dressed in street clothes.

In all, 14 Rockets missed a total of 274 games due to illnesses
or injuries.

From the start of the season, Van Gundy has refused to use their
health issues as excuses. He said one more time that the Rockets'
problems went beyond them.

"We didn't play well and we didn't have the personality on our
team of mental or physical toughness," said Van Gundy, who had his
first losing season in 10 as an NBA head coach.

He wouldn't speculate on what roster moves might occur in the
offseason -- but implied there would be some.

"Usually, most lottery teams, there's change," he said.
"There's always change if you're aggressive because you're not
good enough, obviously."
^Notes:@ The Spurs have won six in a row in the series. ... Pro
golfer Padraig Harrington had a courtside seat next to Rockets
owner Les Alexander. Harrington is playing in the Shell Houston
Open, which starts Thursday. ... The announced attendance was
17,613, but the arena was only about two-thirds full for the
meaningless game.