Keeping their focus on the task at hand, the Spurs pounded the Rockets 102-78 Thursday night to stay 1½ games behind Dallas in the Midwest Division. San Antonio plays host to Dallas on Saturday.
"It wasn't difficult to keep our focus on this game," said David Robinson, who had 15 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots. "All year we've been catching up to somebody. When you're trying to catch up to someone every game, it keeps you humble. It keeps you on your toes."
Tim Duncan, who had 22 points and 11 rebounds for his
NBA-leading 61st double-double of the season, agreed.
"We needed this game pretty badly," said Duncan, who has scored 20 or more points in 22 straight games. "We just lost three in a row last week and we're going to need every win we can get.
"We're not going to look past anybody. Saturday will be a really big game, but that's Saturday."
Houston lost the services of center Kelvin Cato to a sprained
wrist in the first half. He won't play in Friday's game at Memphis and is considered day-to-day. The Rockets bemoaned the lack of an inside presence.
"They've got great big men and they do a great job of running
their offense for them," said Jason Collier, who replaced Cato and
had a career-high tying 12 points. "No matter what we did, they
had an answer for us."
But coach Rudy Tomjanovich had no excuses as the Spurs swept the four-game season series.
"We were short-handed again but the guys fought hard," Tomjanovich said. "(The Spurs) played good defense. They protected the basket. I think they've got a chance to win it all. It was another tough one, but it's a tough league."
Cuttino Mobley scored 24 points for the Rockets, who lost for
the eighth time in 10 games.
The Spurs are 15-4 in the second night of back-to-backs, the
best in the league.
Houston used a 10-1 run to open an 18-10 lead with 6:50 left in
the first quarter. But the Spurs answered with a 12-0 run, with
Duncan scoring six of the points, to go ahead 22-18 with 3:01 left
in the first.
Mobley had nine points in the second quarter, but the Spurs'
balanced scoring helped them steadily pull away. San Antonio had
five players with eight points apiece when it led 49-41 with 2:49
to play in the half.
At the intermission, Duncan had 12 and Steve Smith 10 as the Spurs led 55-45.
San Antonio scored the first seven points of the second half to
expand its lead to 62-45.
Collier's six points led a 14-2 Houston run that pulled the
Rockets back to 64-59 with 5:38 to play in the third. But the Spurs
outscored the Rockets 10-2 to stretch the lead back to 76-63.
Duncan had 18 as San Antonio led 76-65 after three.
The Rockets were never able to cut the lead to fewer than 10 the final quarter.
Collier tied his career-high set Nov. 11 of last season
against Portland. ... After entering in the third quarter Thursday
night, Kevin Willis is now one game away from tying John Havlicek
and Terry Porter for 10th place on the NBA's games played list. The
latter two are tied at 1,270 games played. ... Dan Langhi got his third career start for Houston. ... The Rockets, who play at
Memphis on Friday, are 4-12 on the first nights of back-to-backs
and 4-11 on the second nights.