HOUSTON (AP) — Tony Parker showed why he is so valuable to the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday night.
Kawhi Leonard led the Spurs with 20 points in their 106-100 victory over Houston, but Parker’s court presence proved to be the biggest difference between this victory and Wednesday’s night’s 101-99 home loss to the Rockets without him.
“He’s a great point guard, very smart, knows where guys’ spots are on the floor, and he’s been here before,” Leonard said. “He knows what (Gregg Popovich) expects, and if one of us gets out of line or if we’re doing well, he tells us. He just makes us better.”
Parker missed three games with knee soreness last week, and the Spurs lost consecutive home games for the first time since December 2014. On Saturday night, he scored a season-high 16 points and played 27 minutes, his second-highest total of the season.
“He gets us organized,” Popovich said. “He hasn’t been with us so much this season. He’s just a stability factor, and that was a big help.”
Parker was not made available to reporters.
The Spurs improved to 5-0 on the road, where they have outscored opponents by an average of 12.8 points.
James Harden had a triple-double for a second straight game against the Spurs, finishing with 25 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds, but also added seven costly turnovers. A deep 3-pointer by Eric Gordon cut the lead to four with 2 minutes remaining, but Houston struggled to make stops down the stretch.
“Just messed up coverages,” Harden said. “They’re a really good team. They make you mess up.”
Gordon scored 27 points off the bench, going 7 of 12 on 3-pointers. Houston attempted 47 3s in the game, making 15 (31.9 percent).
The Rockets have lost three of their last four home games against the Spurs in the I-10 rivalry after winning seven of the previous eight. With the Spurs up 16 early in the fourth, a loud “Go Spurs Go!” chant overtook the Toyota Center crowd.
Harden hit a running 39-footer at the buzzer to cut San Antonio’s lead to 26-22 after one. Leonard tried a buzzer-beater of his own to end the second quarter with a deep 3, but it clanked off the front of the rim, and the Spurs led 49-40 at the half.
Spurs: Danny Green returned to the starting lineup after resting for Friday night’s win over Detroit. Green scored five points in 27 minutes. … Houston native SF Jonathon Simmons scored six points in 16 minutes. … San Antonio entered Saturday’s game leading the league in free throw percentage (86.3 percent) and ranking second in 3-point percentage (39.6 percent) and finished 19 of 24 from the line and 5 of 18 from 3.
Rockets: Houston went scoreless for the first 3 minutes of the game, missing its first eight shots. … PG Patrick Beverley was inactive as he continues to recover from knee surgery but participated in pregame warmups and plans to play later this week. … Trevor Ariza had 15 points, and Clint Capela added 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Harden entered Saturday ranking fifth in the league with 37.6 minutes per game and played 39 minutes on Saturday night. Coach Mike D’Antoni said reducing those minutes as much as possible is important in keeping Harden healthy down the stretch, and he believes getting Beverley back in the next few games will allow Harden some added rest.
“That’s just too many minutes,” D’Antoni said. “Pat will be able to alleviate a lot of that.”
Harden joined Elvin Hayes as the only players in franchise history to record consecutive triple-doubles. The Rockets fell to 9-2 in the 11 games where Harden has had a triple-double.
LIVE BY THE 3.
Houston forward Ryan Anderson said Leonard’s defense was a factor in holding him to 1 of 7 from beyond the arc.
“Obviously, their main goal is to get me off the 3-point line,” Anderson said. “They did a great job of taking away normal shots, but at the same time, I had a lot of open looks that I just missed and that’s on me.”
ALL TOGETHER NOW
With plenty of early season absences from Green, Parker and others, Saturday night was the first time this season where the Spurs had everyone in their usual rotation available in the game.