Spurs vs. Houston Rockets
Western Conference semifinals
(Series tied 2-2)
Game 1: Rockets 126, Spurs 99, May 1, AT&T Center
Game 2: Spurs 121, Rockets 96, May 3, AT&T Center
Game 3: Spurs 103, Rockets 92, Friday, Houston
Game 4: Rockets 125, Spurs 104, Sunday, Houston
Game 5: Tuesday, 7 p.m., AT&T Center
Game 6: Thursday, 7 p.m., Houston
Game 7: Sunday, May 14, (time TBD), AT&T Center*
The Spurs hung tough for a half, but the Houston Rockets took control of the game in the third quarter and rolled to a 125-104 victory Sunday night at the Toyota Center, tying the Western Conference semifinal series 2-2.
Game 5 is at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the AT&T Center, where the Rockets won the series opener 126-99 before the Silver and Black took the next two games.
Houston, which never trailed Sunday night, led by 15 points in the first half before the Spurs trimmed the deficit to four (57-53) at intermission. Pau Gasol cut the lead to two in the first 15 seconds of the third quarter, but that’s as close the Silver and Black got.
Sparked by six 3-pointers, two each by James Harden and Eric Gordon, the Rockets put the Spurs on their heels with a 22-8 run that gave Houston a 79-61 lead with 5:42 left in the third period.
“The first five minutes they went on a run and kept going from there,” Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard said of Houston’s third-quarter surge. “We got a little stagnant on the offensive end. The first and third quarters for us, they came out and punched us. We went down 10, 12 early.”
Leonard said the Spurs’ transition defense “definitely” was lacking from the get-go.
“We kind of got back to it a little bit in the second quarter,” he said. “They just got on a run, like I said. It was the first and third quarter for us tonight.”
The Rockets outscored the Spurs 34-23 in the third period, hitting eight 3-pointers. Harden had three of the long shots. Houston led 91-76 heading into the final quarter. Popovich went with the reserves with 8:11 left, when the Spurs trailed by 16 (105-89).
The Rockets won because they got in the open court in transition and nailed 19 threes. They had 12 in the Spurs’ 103-92 win in Game 3 Friday night.
“They did a great job of it and I think our defense was pretty defective,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich. “I thought they drove it with purpose, found people and we started the game, really, without an edge, getting beat in transition again like we did in Game 1. The tale was really told in that first quarter.”
Houston made four 3-pointers and led 34-22 after one quarter.
The Rockets neutralized Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge, who both finished with 16 points after scoring 26 apiece in San Antonio’s Game 3 win. Leonard hit 7 of 14 shots and Aldridge made 7 of 13 Sunday night.
Jonathon Simmons came off the bench to lead the Silver and Black with 17 points, making 6 of 12 shots, including 2 of 5 from the 3-point line. Patty Mills rounded out the Spurs’ double-figure scoring with 10 points.
The Spurs shot 49.4 percent overall (44/89) and 30.4 percent (7/13) from beyond the arc.
Harden finished with 28 points and 12 assists and Gordon came off the bench to score 22 points. Harden was 10 of 18 overall and 4 of 11 from beyond the arc. Gordon stepped up big, hitting 8 of 13 shots from the field, including 6 of 9 from the 3-point line.
“It was extremely important,” Harden said of winning Game 4. “We didn’t want to go down 3-1. Now it’s best out of three. We’ve got to win one in San Antonio.”
The Rockets shot 52.6 percent overall (50/95) and 44.2 percent (19/43) from long distance. They nailed 22 threes in their Game 1 win.
Trevor Ariza (16), Ryan Anderson (13), Lou Williams (13), Bobby Brown (11) and Patrick Beverley (10) also scored in double figures for Houston. Anderson hit three treys and Ariza and Beverley had two each.
The Rockets lost center Nene to a groin injury with 3:30 left in the first quarter, but it made little difference.