The Houston Rockets torching the Spurs for a second regular season game is an affair James Harden has not enjoyed the past three years.
Since joining the Rockets, Harden has achieved a winning regular season record on San Antonio only once in his career when Houston swept the Spurs 4-0 in the 2013-14 season.
The past three regular seasons, including Harden’s first with Houston, have ended with 1-3 records against the silver and black.
However, with newly added superstar point guard Chris Paul in the mix, the I-10 rival now looks to take the three-year reign from the San Antonio Spurs.
“It is a great step. All night, defensively, we were locked in. We got a stop. We knew at some point they were going to make a run, especially in the second half. We held our composure, we cut it to six, and got buckets. We got buckets and we got stops,” Harden said in his postgame interview.
✌🏾☝🏾👌🏾: Never bring up #Spurs Ginobili’s playoff block on #Harden . You’ll get a simple “No” from the #Rockets star when you ask him if tonight’s 1st quarter crossover (actually stepback 3-pointer) on Manu was revenge😂🤷🏽♂️ #KSATnews #KSATsports #NBA #GoSpursGo pic.twitter.com/c3WjOfcDgS— Adrian Garcia (@KSATadrian) February 2, 2018
The Rockets (37-13) bullied the injured Spurs (34-20) in front of their home crowd defeating them 102-91 on Thursday.
The blow also marked the fifth time this season San Antonio has lost at the AT&T Center.
With majority of the game in double digits, the Spurs managed to make a run behind guard Darrun Hillard’s spark off the bench.
San Antonio was able to bring down a 19-point lead to only six points early in the fourth quarter, 82-76.
During that time, Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni said Paul came over to the bench to apologize for his poor performance and allowing the Spurs to come back in the game.
“He (Paul) came over and said ‘coach, it’s on me. I’m out here trying to protect myself, let me go ahead and do what I do,’” D’Antoni said. “(He got) three straight buckets back up to 12 and the game is over.”
Having played professional basketball for a brief time, D’Antoni said he’s never been on the level to manipulate a game the way Paul and Harden do every night.
“They just manipulate the game and figure it out. It’s unbelievable,” he said.
Paul, who sat out the previous game with a groin injury, said the lack of practice caused him to have a slow start but he eventually got into a rhythm late to help the Rockets pull away with a win.
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“I told (D’Antoni) I was trippin'. I felt like it was my fault they were coming back. All game long I wasn’t really trusting what I had going on, so I was like ‘all right, it’s enough,’” Paul said.
✌🏾☝🏾👌🏾: When #Rockets Chris Paul was asked about Blake Griffin being traded to #Pistons from the #Clippers , he said his mind has been on the passing of his former teammate & Spur Rasual Butler. He had this to share⬇️ #KSATnews #KSATsports #Spurs #GoSpursGo pic.twitter.com/858axpHiLT— Adrian Garcia (@KSATadrian) February 2, 2018
Paul also shared it was different to play against the Spurs and not guard Tony Parker for the majority of the game.
“Yeah, it definitely is. TP (Tony Parker), that’s my guy. I have known TP since day one since I was in college. It is odd, but he is still going to be him, he is a pro,” Paul said.
Popovich postgame after #Spurs fall to #Rockets tonight 102-91. Credits teams effort in 2nd half, 'we got better tonight' adds a couple of great players in Chris Paul and James Harden hit tough shots #KSATnews #KSATsports pic.twitter.com/F2GaaozTku— RJ Marquez (@KSATRJ) February 2, 2018
San Antonio will play its final game at home on Saturday, 8 p.m., against the Utah Jazz before heading out on their annual Rodeo Road Trip.