James Harden returned from a brief injury hiatus and scored a game-high 28 points as the Houston Rockets beat the shorthanded San Antonio Spurs 109-93 on Monday at Toyota Center.
Although he missed 9 of 11 3-pointers, Harden compensated by shooting 14-for-14 at the free-throw line. He sat out the Rockets’ 23-point victory in Dallas on Sunday with a sore left knee.
The Rockets completed a grueling stretch of five games in seven days with a 4-1 record, their lone loss coming at Toronto last Friday. Houston moved two games ahead of the Golden State Warriors in the pursuit of home-court advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs.
Harden added six rebounds and six assists to his ledger. Chris Paul totaled 18 points and nine assists for the Rockets, who moved to 3-0 against the Spurs this season. San Antonio dropped all three games of its road trip and lost for the 11th time in 14 games to fall into a tie with the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets for the eighth spot in the West.
The Spurs were without Kawhi Leonard (right quad), LaMarcus Aldridge (right knee), and Manu Ginobili (rest). They shot 40.7 percent and had one starter score in double figures, with forward Rudy Gay tallying 13. Four reserves reached double figures for San Antonio as Derrick White and Bryn Forbes scored 14 points apiece while Tony Parker added 12 points and three assists.
The Rockets led by as many as 26 points late in the third quarter.
The Rockets took advantage of the Spurs’ absences, holding an opponent under 50 points in the first half for a sixth time in eight games. Parker salvaged the first quarter for San Antonio, igniting a 12-0 run with six points and an assist as the Spurs whittled what was a 19-4 deficit.
Houston missed 9 of 10 3-pointers to open the game before Paul and Luc Mbah a Moute drained treys inside the final 36 seconds of the first period. When Harden returned in the second quarter, he tallied seven consecutive points as the Rockets extended to a 51-35 lead.
—Field Level Media