Spurs try to halt slump against Harden-led Rockets
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There have been indications that the San Antonio Spurs are set to pull out of the doldrums in which they found themselves through most of the month of November.
If the light has come on for the Spurs, it better stay on for a while as they begin a spate of challenging games, beginning with Tuesday's dustup at home against the rival Houston Rockets and NBA scoring leader James Harden.
The Spurs crawl back home after a 132-98 loss at Detroit on Sunday afternoon in which they allowed 15 made 3-pointers. The Pistons led by just eight points at the half but outscored San Antonio 73-47 over the final 24 minutes.
San Antonio, which lost for the 13th time in 16 games, got 20 points from DeMar DeRozan, 13 off the bench from Lonnie Walker IV and 12 from Rudy Gay.
The Spurs were without All-Star center LaMarcus Aldridge, who sat out the game with a thigh injury.
The performance from San Antonio was a far cry from the positives it gained on Friday in a home win over the Los Angeles Clippers.
"Yes, I'm disappointed," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "We came out aggressively in our last game against the Clippers and we had energy and execution at both ends. This was another night where we gave up 3-pointers and didn't make any. But I think Detroit did everything better than we did tonight."
Houston heads to the Alamo City on the heels of a 158-111 home romp past Atlanta on Saturday in which the Rockets owned as much as a 58-point lead and James Harden poured in 60 points.
Harden scored 29 of those points in the third quarter and did not play in the fourth, having made 16 of his 24 field-goal attempts in just 31 minutes of court time.
It was the fourth time in his career that Harden had scored at least 60 points in game, tying him with Michael Jordan for third-most in NBA history. Only Kobe Bryant (six) and Wilt Chamberlain (32) have more, and Harden is the only active player who has scored 60 points more than once.
"That's a great list right there," Harden said in a postgame television interview. "Those guys are something that I'm trying to get to. Hopefully when it is all said and done, I can be mentioned in that group forever."
Harden ended up one point shy of his career high, which he has accomplished twice.
"We played a really good game those first three quarters so the fourth was an opportunity for other guys to play minutes that they've earned," said Harden, who raised his scoring average to 38.9.
Ben McLemore scored a season-high 24 points and collected a career-best 13 rebounds and Russell Westbrook had 15 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in Houston's win. The Rockets shot 58.4 percent from the field and were 25 of 51 from 3-point range.
The Rockets were missing starters Clint Capela and Danuel House because of illnesses. Houston coach Mike D'Antoni said after the win over Atlanta that he hopes both players can return on Tuesday night.
The Spurs own a 108-89 all-time edge on Houston, including a 67-31 advantage in games played in the Alamo City. The Rockets won three of four against San Antonio last year.