Tim Duncan scored 29 points as defending league champion San Antonio beat the Rockets 104-103 in Houston. The Spurs have won 10 in a row and moved into third place in the Western Conference. Houston dropped from third to sixth in the West.
HOUSTON – The San Antonio Spurs hacked Josh Smith for most of the second half against the Houston Rockets on Friday night to keep the ball out of James Harden’s hands.
Coach Gregg Popovich’s strategy worked. The Spurs held Harden to 16 points and got their 10th straight victory, 104-103, and a leg up in the playoff standings.
Tim Duncan had 29 points and blocked Harden’s layup with 2.9 seconds left to secure the victory.
San Antonio jumped into the third spot in the Western Conference and Houston dropped from third to sixth. The top eight teams in each conference make the playoffs.
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Popovich was pleased with the way his Hack-A-Smith routine changed the game.
“Absolutely, I’d trade it any day rather than have James Harden with the basketball,” Popovich said. “That’s kind of scary.”
Duncan missed a layup before Harden made a three-pointer with 28.9 seconds left to get Houston to 104-103. Tony Parker turned it over to give Houston one last shot.
But Duncan blocked Harden’s attempt and grabbed the rebound to secure the victory.
“Got to finish,” Harden said. “I’ve just got to finish.”
The close game ended a streak of nine straight victories by at least 12 points for the Spurs, which had tied an NBA record.
Harden, who entered the game leading the league in scoring, was kept well below his 27.6 average, with San Antonio intentionally fouling Smith 12 times in the second half. Smith went 12 of 26 from the line and led the Rockets with 20 points.
Mavericks outlast Denver in 2 OT
DENVER – Raymond Felton made a layup with 1.5 seconds remaining in the second overtime, then blocked a last-second shot to help the Dallas Mavericks edge Denver 144-143.
Felton, a former Nugget, drove past Randy Foye and banked in a shot. He then got a piece of Kenneth Faried’s jumper at the buzzer, causing the ball to wind up short.
Danilo Gallinari of the Nuggets scored a career-high 47 points.
• Rodney Stuckey scored 24 points, including three straight jumpers down the stretch, and the Indiana Pacers beat host Detroit 107-103 for their fourth victory in a row. Stuckey is a former standout for Eastern Washington and Kentwood High in Covington.
Indiana (36-43) is ninth in the East — a game behind Boston and Brooklyn, who both won.
Boston beat Cleveland 99-90, snapping the Cavaliers’ home winning streak at 18 games.
Brooklyn overwhelmed Washington 117-80.
• New Orleans and Oklahoma City, who are battling for the last playoff spot in the West, each won at home to improve to 43-36.
Anthony Davis scored 19 points and New Orleans beat Phoenix 90-75 and Russell Westbrook had 27 points and 10 assists to help the Thunder beat Sacramento 116-103.
• The Memphis Grizzlies won 89-88 at Utah. The Jazz trailed by three when Gordon Hayward was fouled in the last second and got three free throws. He made the first two but missed the one that would have tied the score.