Hill sparks second-half runs to lift Spurs over Rockets

SAN ANTONIO -- The question for Manu Ginobili, who knows a thing or two about carrying the San Antonio Spurs on his sore back: Where would the team be without second-year guard George Hill?

"Probably five more wins, six ..." Ginobili joked. "Seven, tops."

Hill, who has filled in for the Spurs at point guard since Tony Parker's early March injury, showed his true value Wednesday night by scoring a career-high 30 points and leading two second-half pushes that helped send San Antonio past the Houston Rockets 119-102.

"He's got some big shoes to fill without Tony playing," Ginobili said of Hill, who added seven assists and five steals. "He's doing a great job of getting the team to play, scoring, playing 'D' against the best opponents. He's been huge for us."

Ginobili, who bounced back from back spasms that caused him to miss Monday's loss at New Jersey, had 18 points and 10 assists. Tim Duncan added 17 points and 10 rebounds.

But Hill stole the show, particularly after halftime. He was 4 of 5 from the field and added three free throws for an 11-point third quarter as San Antonio extended a five-point halftime lead to 14 heading into the fourth.

In the fourth, after Houston had closed within eight, Hill scored seven points in a decisive 13-2 San Antonio run.

"The whole thing was just being aggressive today and taking what they gave me," said Hill, who was 11 of 15 from the field. "I didn't know I was going to come into the game and score 30."

The Spurs remained in the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference.

The injury-depleted Rockets' faltering playoff hopes took another hit with their fifth loss in six games.

"Our defense -- not making excuses; it's a fact of life -- we're not the same team that we were before," Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. "We don't have anyone at the basket that challenges anybody and we're playing a lot of young guys. But that doesn't mean we can't get better. Right now we have some guys that put there worth in the offensive end and when things break down they don't fall back on the defense."

Despite shooting 76.2 percent from the field in the first quarter and 62.5 percent for the first half, it took a while for the Spurs to shake the Rockets. San Antonio led 34-27 after the opening period and 64-59 at the break as Houston used a 12-4 edge in second-chance points to stay close.

Hill and Richard Jefferson, who finished the game with 19 points, helped San Antonio gain some breathing room in the third quarter. They combined for 16 points as the Spurs pushed their lead to 92-78 entering the final quarter.

"[Hill is] more and more confident offensively," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "He's slowly starting to try and take charge on the court and read situations -- who's hot, who's being guarded by who, what's the time on the clock, what's the game situation. That's tough to do for somebody who hasn't been a point guard for very long."

Aaron Brooks, who came in averaging 22 points against the Spurs, scored 16 of his 21 points in the first half for Houston.

"We just have to do a better job at playing defense," Brooks said. "We haven't come into our own as far being able to outscore a team.

"[Hill] played an excellent game. He hit the shots when he was open, and he got out on the break and hit some shots. But Ginobili creates so much conflict for us when he gets in the penetration and kicks out."

Luis Scola and Kyle Lowry scored 17 points apiece for Houston.

Game notes
In addition to Yao Ming, out all season after foot surgery, the Rockets played without Kevin Martin (shoulder sprain), Shane Battier (MCL sprain), David Andersen (sore lower back) and Jared Jeffries (strained Achilles'). ... Spurs G Roger Mason Jr., who left Monday's loss at New Jersey with an injured right hand, played Wednesday wearing a device to protect a sprained ligament that controls the movement on his pinky. He said the injury to his fifth metacarpophalamgeal joint had been bothering him for about a month and that the taped splint actually helped his shooting motion by keeping his pinky steady. Mason hit 2 of 5 3-point shots and finished with 6 points. ... The Spurs' victory was their first at home over the Rockets since Nov. 14, 2008, and tied the season series with Houston at 2-2, the teams' fourth split in five years. ... Hill was the first Spur other than one of the "Big Three" -- Duncan, Ginobili and Parker -- to score 30 points or more since Nazr Mohammad hit for 30 on March 17, 2006, at Phoenix.


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