GAMEDAY AT A GLANCE
Houston Rockets (36-13) vs. Spurs (34-19)
When, where:Thursday, 7 p.m., AT&T Center
Season series: Rockets lead 1-0
Last meeting: Rockets 124, Spurs 109, Dec. 15, Houston
Rockets’ last game: Beat Magic 114-107, Tuesday, Houston
Spurs’ last game: Beat Nuggets 106-104, Tuesday, AT&T Center
Rockets’ last 10 games, streak: 8-2, won two
Spurs’ last 10 games, streak: 6-4, won two
Notable: Spurs Rudy Gay (right heel bursitis) and Kawhi Leonard (rehabbing quad injury) are out for Thursday’s game . . . The Silver and Black are 32-0 in the last three seasons when dishing out 30+ assists. They tied a season high with 33 assists in their win over the Nuggets on Tuesday, and they’re 7-0 this season when recording at least 30 dimes.
Houston Rockets star James Harden is so tough to guard that he would be a prolific scorer in any offense.
Put him in Houston coach Mike D'Antoni's up-tempo offense and Harden is virtually unstoppable. Just ask the Orlando Magic.
The front-runner for the NBA's MVP Award this season, Harden recorded the highest-scoring triple-double in league history Tuesday night in Houston's 114-107 victory over the Magic. He hit 19 of 30 shots, including 5 of 14 from the three-point line, and finished with 60 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists.
Harden eclipsed the Rockets' scoring record of 57 points, set by Calvin Murphy in 1978. Fittingly, the bearded wonder set the record when he hit a step-back three-pointer. Fouled on the shot, Harden coolly made the free throw for his 60th point of the game.
Harden will make his first appearance in San Antonio this season Thursday night when the Rockets (36-13) play the Spurs (34-19) at the AT&T Center. Harden scored 28 points in the the first meeting this season between the Interstate 10 rivals, a 124-109 Rockets victory on Dec.15 in Houston.
The Spurs couldn't say enough good things about the Rockets as they looked ahead to Thursday's game after edging Denver 106-104 on Tuesday.
"We know they're playing really well," center Pau Gasol said. "They're a very dangerous team. They've got great players. I'm sure they carry that hurt from last year, us beating them in the playoffs. So, come in ready.
"We're going to have to be more ready for them, a tough matchup, a lot of weapons. We're going to have to execute our game plan, and not allow them to have open looks, and minimize their opportunities."
The Spurs eliminated the Rockets in the Western Conference semifinals last season, rolling to a 39-point rout on the road in the decisive sixth game without injured Kawhi Leonard and point guard Tony Parker.
Houston All-Star point guard Chris Paul, who left the Los Angeles Clippers to sign with Houston last summer, will return to the lineup after missing the Orlando game with a groin injury, D'Antoni said in his pregame session with the media. Guard Eric Gordon (back) will not play.
The Spurs will play without Leonard, their All-NBA forward and two-time Defensive Player of the Year, and key reserve Rudy Gay, both still out with injuries.
The Rockets have thrived in the fast-paced offense that D'Antoni implemented when he became their coach in the summer of 2016. The attack spreads the floor with smaller lineups and emphasizes three-point shooting. But Houston is also deadly around the rim.
"It's going to be tough," said forward Kyle Anderson, who has started for Leonard throughout most of the season. "We played them in the playoffs last year and it wasn't easy. It's a tough task, but just like Cleveland coming in here last week, one of the best teams in the league. It's exciting to get out there and try to get a win."
Anderson had an outstanding game in the win over the Nuggets on Sunday, finishing with a career-high 18 points on 9-of-12 shooting. He also had four rebounds, five assists and two blocks.
"Kyle gave us a big spark," point guard Dejounte Murray said. "I always try to tell him to look at the rim and stay aggressive because I know how good he is when he's aggressive. He's a smart basketball player, so he knows how to make the right reads."
Murray had a strong game himself. Although he failed to score, he picked up his game in other area, finishing with 13 rebounds, seven assists and two blocks.
LaMarcus Aldridge led the Spurs' scoring with 30 points, and also had five rebounds and two blocks. Playing for the first time since missing six games with a thigh contusion,
Manu Ginobili played a key role in Sunday's victory. He led the bench with 14 points and nailed 3 of 6 three-pointers, and his 13-foot floater gave the Silver and Black a 106-101 lead with 36.7 seconds left.
"This is what Manu does," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said, when asked about Ginobili's performance. "He plays to win. He always has. That's why he's a Hall of Fame guy. He's a special person."
Up next for the Spurs after Thursday's game: vs. Jazz, Saturday, 8 p.m., AT&T Center