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Duncan scores 20 as Spurs hold off Rockets

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Michael Finley was stuck in a corner with the
shot clock running down when he found an escape route along the
baseline. Then he came face to face with another obstacle -- all
7-foot-6 of Yao Ming.

But Finley, a foot shorter than Yao, never stopped coming. His
powerful dunk over the Houston Rockets' center energized the San
Antonio Spurs, who went on to a 88-81 win on Sunday afternoon.

"I knew when I went to lay it up that they had a chance to
block it, so I wanted to be aggressive," said Finley, who scored
eight of his 15 points in the final period. "It was great timing
for us. It was something that we needed so far as to get us over
the hump."

The Rockets played without star swingman Tracy McGrady, who
could miss five weeks with a sore back.

Trailing by 11 after three, Houston closed within 79-77 when
Rafer Alston drove the baseline for a layup with 2:52 remaining.

But the Spurs' Nazr Mohammed set a screen on Rick Brunson that
allowed Finley to drive the baseline for the dunk over Yao.

A minute later, Manu Ginobili tangled Yao's feet with a
crossover before he threw down a left-handed dunk over the Rockets'
center to make it 85-79.

Ginobili said the dunk was about the only high spot for him. He
finished with 14 points, but shot only 5-for-15 from the floor.

"What I wanted to do was just go strong and draw a foul, if not
try to dunk," he said. "I'm kind of upset because I couldn't do
it before. I had a lot of opportunities."

Finley clinched the victory with a corner 3-pointer with 40
seconds left.

"Ginobili had a crossover dunk and he created Finley's 3 with
his penetration," Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "They have
so many great perimeter players, the kind of players that give
everybody trouble."

Tim Duncan had 20 points and 10 rebounds for San Antonio, while
Mohammed scored 11 and Beno Udrih 10.

Yao had 25 points for the Rockets, 17 in the first half, and
Alston scored 15. Luther Head added 13, including three 3-pointers,
and Keith Bogans had 11.

The loss kept Houston winless in 10 games against Southwest
Division rivals.

Yao said he had problems with the Spurs' defense.

"They just double-team so hard," he said. "Usually I can at
least see the floor, find the open man for a look at the basket.
But Bruce Bowen, his finger was almost in my eye a couple of times.
I couldn't see the weak side to find that open man."

Yao hit three short jumpers while scoring nine of Houston's
first 13 points as the Rockets took an early lead.

San Antonio came back to tie it at 19 with about 3 minutes left
in the first quarter on a three-point play by Rasho Nesterovic.

Udrih made a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give San Antonio a 25-22
lead after one, but Yao made a 13-footer early in the second to put
Houston back ahead.

A pair of 3-pointers by Head sparked the Rockets, who built
their advantage to 39-34 late in the half. Yao scored 17 points in
the half, while Duncan was held scoreless in the second on 0-for-5
shooting after scoring 10 in the first.

San Antonio erased a four-point halftime deficit by outscoring
the Rockets 26-11 in the third. Bogans had nine of those points for
Houston, which shot 5-for-17 in the quarter.

Bowen started the run for the Spurs with a 3-pointer, and
Mohammed made three straight baskets. After a fast-break layup by
Tony Parker, Udrih hit his second 3-pointer to make it 64-53 in the
final minute of the third.<
Game notes
The Spurs have beaten Houston 17 straight times at home. ...
The Rockets' David Wesley did not play in the second half because
of a rib injury. ... San Antonio played its fourth straight without
Nick Van Exel (sore left elbow). ... The Rockets and Spurs play
again Saturday and then in the season finale on April 19. Both of
those games are in Houston.