Houston Rockets NBA San Antonio Spurs

Spurs’ perseverance in final minutes leads them past Rockets

San Antonio Spurs vs Houston Rockets

Photo Credit: Bob Levey / Getty Images

Leave it to the San Antonio Spurs to snap the Houston Rockets’ 10-game winning streak – barely. With 12.9 seconds left in the game, Patty Mills made a three-pointer to lift the Spurs past the Rockets, 102-100, on Tuesday night.

This victory is the Spurs’ fifth straight and makes them 15-1 on the road this season. Kawhi Leonard, as usual, led the team with 21 points. LaMarcus Aldridge followed closely with 17 points and 10 rebounds.

The Rockets’ superstar James Harden was a powerhouse, finishing with 31 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists. It’s incredible that that wasn’t enough to lift Houston to victory. However, the Rockets had a rough final minute of the game, committing two turnovers in less than 10 seconds to give San Antonio the ball and set up that three-pointer by Mills (who finished with 13 points).

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was pleased with his team’s resilience in the final minutes of Tuesday’s game.

“That was the best part of the whole game,” he said. “They showed some toughness mentally as much as physically. We went down there at the end, and I think [the deficit] was 12 at one point. We could’ve just cashed it in, but they just kept working. The defense got a little bit better. The physicality got better. We got a break or two, made a couple of shots. But they never hung their heads. They just kept on pushing because in this game, it really is 48 minutes, and anything can happen in an NBA game. It takes forever.”

Actually, San Antonio trailed by 13 points with less than 4:30 to go. According to ESPN, teams behind by 13 points or more with that amount of time left owned a record of 1-1,388. The Rockets were that one win, in their game Saturday against Minnesota.

Leonard called the game the Spurs’ grittiest to date. “You know the Rockets were on that 10-game winning streak. They fought back in the third and fourth quarters, got a 10-point lead, got it back from us. It’s just tough. Both teams are out there competing, and we just wanted to win. These are the types of games that are fun. You’ve got to come down to the end and execute.”

And execute they did, led in the last five minutes by Danny Green, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili – and, of course, the winning shot by Mills. True, it wasn’t just the Spurs rallying in that fourth quarter; the Rockets started breaking up near the end and shooting terribly. Still, the Spurs persevered and did what they had to do in the final minutes.

“If you’ve got guys that never stop, you’ve got a shot all the time. And I was really proud of them for that,” Popovich said. “They did a good job against a team that’s just really, really difficult to guard. They and the Warriors probably are the two toughest teams to guard for all the obvious reasons, with their personnel and the systems they have. I was really happy with our stick-to-it-ness. We won by a couple of points. It doesn’t mean that we played any better than they did. We just made a shot or two down the stretch. But it was a really competitive game both ways.”

Manu Ginobili summed it up best by saying, “Today, I don’t think we played a great game. We fought hard. We stuck with it, and we ended up winning it. But I think we can play much better than that.”

What’s next?

The Spurs visit the Los Angeles Clippers for a late game tomorrow night (Thursday). The Rockets don’t get much of a break, going on the road against the Phoenix Suns tonight.

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