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Spurs rally to beat Rockets for seventh straight time

HOUSTON (AP) -- San Antonio's reserves bailed out the stars on
Tuesday night and sparked a comeback victory over the Houston
Rockets.

Tim Duncan had 19 points and 15 rebounds, but the game began to
turn when he was on the bench and the Spurs rallied from 19 points
down to win 92-84.

Gregg Popovich benched Tony Parker along with Duncan and the
rest of the starters after Houston built a 74-55 lead in the third
quarter.

With the two All-Stars out, the Spurs mounted a 20-1 spurt,
holding Houston without a field goal for eight minutes. Beno Udrih
sank two 3-pointers and turned a steal into a breakaway layup to
cut the Rockets' lead to 75-71 heading to the fourth.

"Our bench did one heck of a job to get us back in it," Duncan
said. "Pop took us out because we were turning the ball over and
not making shots. But our bench came in and they were the
difference."

Francisco Elson had 12, Udrih added 11 and Robert Horry had 10
off the bench to propel the Spurs to their seventh straight win
over the Rockets.

Reserves Michael Finley and Horry scored early in the fourth to
cap the run and tie the game.

"Robert and Francisco and Beno, off the bench, were the reasons
we ended up with this victory," Popovich said.

Shane Battier's 3-pointer with 8:56 left ended Houston's
field-goal drought and put the Rockets up 78-75. But three minutes
later, Manu Ginobili made a 3-pointer from the wing to put the
Spurs up 82-79, their first lead of the second half.

At that point, the Rockets were on the verge of collapsing after
a promising start. They shot 51 percent in the first half, then
missed 13 consecutive shots after Rafer Alston's 3-pointer put them
up by 19 with 4:57 left in the third.

The Rockets missed 11 of their first 12 shots in the final
quarter and San Antonio surged to an 86-79 lead on baskets by
Duncan and Ginobili.

Duncan ripped the ball away from Yao Ming at one end, then hit a
decisive fadeaway jumper at the other to put the Spurs up 90-83
with 2:38 remaining. He also blocked three shots and put on what
Popovich considered one of his best defensive performances ever.

Tracy McGrady scored 26 for the Rockets, but he had only five in
the second half. Houston went 2-for-17 in the fourth quarter and
was outscored 21-9.

"We stopped fighting," McGrady said. "When you've got a team
down like that, you got to that point, you have to continue to
execute and provided that kind of energy, because they're too
good."

The Rockets made several offseason moves and are hoping to
contend for the Western Conference crown. McGrady conceded that
Tuesday's game shows how far Houston still has to go.

"In order for us to be at that level that San Antonio's at,
we've got to learn how to close these types of games out," McGrady
said. "Until we learn how to do that, we're going to be good, but
we're not going to be San Antonio. Hopefully, we learn from this."

Ginobili scored 13 of his 19 points in the second half for the
Spurs, who've won their opening four road games for the first time
in franchise history.

The Rockets finished 32-of-84 (38 percent) from the field and
were outrebounded 51-36.

McGrady seemed poised for a big night at the start, scoring 14
points in the first quarter. He came in shooting only 38.6 percent
from the field, but made six of his first nine shots against San
Antonio, including a pair of 3-pointers.

McGrady rested on the bench as the second quarter began and the
Spurs turned a 27-21 deficit into a 32-31 lead.

McGrady returned with 6:40 left in the half and the Rockets
retook the lead.

Houston finished the first half with a 7-0 run, sparked by
Dikembe Mutombo. The 40-year-old Mutombo replaced Yao with 1:42
left before the break, blocked a shot by Duncan and tipped in a
miss by Luther Head to give Houston a 53-43 lead.

McGrady drilled another 3-pointer and pumped his first just
before the halftime buzzer to put Houston up by 13. He finished the
half with 21 points, six rebounds and two assists.

"He looked like the usual Spur killer of all time out there,"
Popovich said of McGrady.

Yao had only 10 points at the break, then scored eight in the
third quarter as the Rockets' lead bulged to 19.

Game notes
Juwan Howard had five points and six rebounds in place of
injured Houston forward Chuck Hayes. ... Yao sported a long gash on
his left biceps, a product of his duel with Shaquille O'Neal in
Miami on Sunday. ... The Rockets' point total was a season low. ...
The Rockets' seven-game losing streak to the Spurs is their longest
active drought against one team.