Spurs have no problem with Rockets in Parker's absence

HOUSTON -- Tim Duncan knew right away it was going to be a good night.

Duncan scored 26 points and the San Antonio Spurs beat the Houston Rockets 97-74 on Saturday night for their season-high eighth straight victory.

Duncan hit his first five shots and scored 15 points in the first quarter. He had eight in a 12-0 run that opened an 18-5 lead with 6:18 to go in the first quarter.

"It feels good to hit your first few shots," Duncan said. "It makes the rest of the game go easy. My shot felt good the entire night."

Duncan hit at least four of his trademark bank shots, soft floaters that look off at first before they glance off the glass and fall in.

"It's what's going in now," he said. "I hope it keeps going in for a while."

So do the Spurs.

"When he starts like that, it gives him confidence and gives us confidence, too," guard Manu Ginobili said. "When he starts making those shots, it opens up the whole game for us.

"We played great, especially defensively. It was a great overall game by everybody."

The Spurs got 14 points from Michael Finley and 13 points and eight rebounds from Francisco Elson as they won in Houston for the fourth straight time. San Antonio played without All-Star guard Tony Parker, who sat with a strained left hip.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich pointed to the fact the Rockets are playing without center Yao Ming.

"I thought we played good defense tonight," Popovich said. "We also were playing a team that is very undermanned. I think Yao was playing at an MVP pace before he got hurt."

Tracy McGrady had 21 points, all in the first half, as Houston lost for the fifth time in eight games.

"For us to turn the ball over 10 times in the first quarter, that just says it all right there," McGrady said. "And Duncan got off to a great start to get those guys going and they never looked back."

Coach Jeff Van Gundy had no excuses.

"The breakdown was we got it put to us by a championship-caliber team playing championship-caliber basketball with championship poise and intensity," Van Gundy said. "We really only had two guys playing well. (Shane) Battier and McGrady played well. I thought other than that we didn't have anyone play particularly well."

Duncan's eight points in the third quarter helped the Spurs maintain at least a 20-point advantage through most of the period. San Antonio led 81-59 entering the fourth and the lead reached as many as 29 in the final period.

The Spurs opened up a 20-point lead midway through the second quarter as Finley, who didn't play the first period, scored seven quick points and Elson added a three-point play for a 46-26 advantage.

McGrady scored 14 in the second quarter to pull the Rockets within 12. But Duncan had 18 at the half as San Antonio led 54-42.

San Antonio hit 73.3 percent (11-of-15) to lead 30-15 after one.

Game notes
Jacque Vaughn replaced Parker in the lineup Saturday. ... The crowd of 18,394 was the Rockets' second-largest crowd in history behind the 18,392 that saw the Lakers on Dec. 12, 2006. It was the 18th sellout of the season. ... After beating Denver Friday, Houston is 7-8 in the second game of back-to-backs this season. The Spurs beat Orlando Friday and are 10-5 in the second games of back-to-backs this season. ... The win clinched San Antonio's 10th straight winning road season. The Lakers and Celtics are the only other NBA teams to have accomplished that. ... Neither team has scored 100 in this series in the last 20 meetings, the longest current such streak in the NBA.

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