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Parker scores 17 points to lead balanced Spurs past Rockets

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Associated Press
12/7/2012 11:09:35 PM
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SAN ANTONIO -- James Harden received a familiar welcome to San Antonio, but little else resembled his previous trip to the River City.

Tony Parker had 17 points and seven assists, and the San Antonio Spurs never trailed in a 114-92 victory over the Houston Rockets on Friday night.

The Spurs had six players score in double figures while matching their season high with 33 assists. San Antonio (16-4) led by as many as 33 points and never by less than 21 in the final quarter.

"They're a very good team," Harden said, "especially at home. They did a good job at moving the ball and we knew they were going to pass the ball. It was just a matter of us locking down and trying to stay on one page defensively."

It was Harden's first game in San Antonio since helping the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Spurs last season in the Western Conference finals. Harden was traded by the Thunder to the Rockets before the start of this season.

San Antonio fans certainly remembered Harden, who was booed heartily during pregame introductions and every time he shot a free throw.

While Harden had 29 points and five assists to lead Houston, he couldn't help the Rockets walk away with a win against the well-balanced Spurs.

Tiago Splitter added 15 points and Gary Neal, Manu Ginobili, Patty Mills and Tim Duncan each scored 12. Duncan also had a game-high 12 rebounds. Every active San Antonio player scored and played at least 8 minutes.

"We weren't as consistent as we'd like to be, but we had a really good pace offensively and I got to play a lot of guys," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.

Parker keyed a quick start, scoring eight points and picking up two assists as San Antonio took a 10-point lead in the first 5 minutes.

Jeremy Lin had difficulty keeping up with Parker, who raced by him for three layups in scoring eight of the Spurs' first 10 points. Parker also made a pair of free throws during the run after being fouled by Lin on a layup attempt.

"You're not really going to take away everything just because something's got to give," Lin said. "They move the ball well. The speed in which they move their offence and the speed in which they make decisions makes it really hard (to defend)."

Lin finished with four points, four assists and two turnovers.

Harden kept the Rockets in contention early, scoring 13 points in the first quarter after being shut out in the opening 4 minutes. His 3-pointer pulled Houston to 14-13, but the Rockets never tied it.

Harden fueled another rally in the second half, scoring nine points to help Houston pull to 66-58 with 7:27 left in the third quarter.

The Spurs responded with a 15-0 run following a vocal timeout by Popovich. San Antonio held the Rockets scoreless for 4 minutes during the run to essentially seal the game.

"It was important," Neal said. "Coach Pop kind of rattled the cage a little bit with that timeout."

San Antonio opened a 103-70 lead with 6:48 left on an 8-foot jumper by DeJuan Blair. The Rockets closed the game on a 22-11 run, but both teams had already pulled their starters midway through the period.

Matt Bonner did give the fans and the Spurs' bench something to cheer about in the final minutes, driving baseline for a two-handed, rim-hanging dunk that drew cheers, laughter and shouts of excitement from his teammates.

"Of the NBA, it's like top 10, easy," Duncan said about where Bonner's dunk ranks historically. "World? Fifteen, maybe. Top 15."

The dunk capped a needed blowout win for the Spurs, who play at Charlotte on Saturday night to open a four-game road trip.

"It was great for them to keep it that way," Duncan said. "Obviously with the game tomorrow, and this long flight tonight, we wanted to have as much rest as possible and not take Charlotte lightly. It was good to keep our minutes down, good to give a lot of guys a lot of minutes and spread it around as much as possible. Four games in five nights? We need as much rest as possible."

NOTES: Neal set a career high with his eighth start of the season. ... Spurs swingman Stephen Jackson (broken right pinkie) and F Kawhi Leonard (left knee) both sat out with injuries. ... Duncan had the 742nd double-double of his career. ... Houston has lost 10 straight road games against Southwest Division opponents since a 91-89 victory at New Orleans on Feb. 27, 2011. ... Houston's Chandler Parsons went 0 for 4 from 3-point range, snapping his streak of making at least one 3 at 23 games in a row.

Lin and Parker (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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