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(Wednesday, December 25th)
Final Score: Houston 111, San Antonio 98
San Antonio, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - James Harden returned from a two-game absence and led all five Houston starters in double figures with 28 points, as the Rockets topped the San Antonio Spurs, 111-98, at AT&T Center.
Harden sat out games against Detroit and Dallas due to a sprained left ankle, but the veteran shooting guard was a one-man wrecking crew in the fourth quarter against the Spurs. Harden had 11 straight Houston points during the final period and scored 16 in the frame.
Dwight Howard contributed 15 points and 20 rebounds for the Rockets, who are within 3 1/2 games of the Spurs for first place in the Southwest Division. Terrence Jones had 21 points and 14 boards, while Chandler Parsons also scored 21 to go with six rebounds and six assists. Jeremy Lin had 13 points and eight helpers.
The Rockets, who didn't trail the entire game, made 12-of-24 shots from beyond the arc.
Manu Ginobili had 22 points for the Spurs, who suffered only their fourth home loss all season. Two of those defeats have come against the Rockets. Tim Duncan finished with 11 points, 14 rebounds, six blocks and five assists.
Kawhi Leonard scored 13 points for the Spurs, who lost for the second time in three contests.
"We just didn't give very good performances," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "You can live with that from time-to-time. Nobody's going to play perfect every night. But you can't combine poor performances with a lack of physicality and a lack of discipline. They whipped us. They whipped us good. That's an embarrassing loss."
A 3-pointer by Ginobili had the hosts within 87-84 early in the fourth, but a short time later Harden took over the contest. His 3-point shot from the left wing extended the margin to 100-90 and finished his personal stretch of 11 straight points for his club.
The Spurs couldn't get closer than eight the rest of the way.
"We just stayed composed, we didn't rush any shots," Howard said. "We got stops from the defense. We got out in the open court and we got a good shot every time down."
Houston shot 11-of-18 in the final quarter, including 6-of-7 from Harden.
Parsons scored 14 of Houston's 40 first-quarter points. It was part of a 64 percent shooting performance by the visitors in the opening 12 minutes.
The Rockets bolted to a 27-9 cushion following a Parsons 3-pointer and were up 40-25 after the first quarter. The margin was 60-51 at halftime and 83-75 going into the fourth.
Tony Parker had just six points on 3-of-11 shooting for the Spurs ... Parsons went 5-of-9 from 3-point range ... Houston has won the last three meetings, but this was only the Rockets' fourth victory in the last 14 trips to San Antonio ... The Rockets play five of their next six at home, starting Thursday against Memphis ... The Spurs visit Dallas Thursday before coming back to the Alamo City for a four-game homestand ... The Spurs bench outscored the Rockets reserves 53-13.
12/26 01:05:51 ET