Harden’s late jumper lifts Rockets over Spurs

Posted at: 03/24/2013 8:09 PM
By CHRIS DUNCAN

(AP) HOUSTON - James Harden sank an off-balance jumper with 4.5 seconds left to lift the Houston Rockets to a 96-95 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday night.

Harden scored 18 of his 29 points in the second half as the Rockets rallied from three down in the final minute to snap a four-game losing streak to their state rivals.

Tony Parker scored 23 points, including 10 in a row to put San Antonio ahead with just under 2 minutes left. The Spurs led 95-94 when Harden got the ball from Omer Asik, drove to the free throw line and hit the winning jumper with Tim Duncan in front of him and Kawhi Leonard behind him.

Duncan missed a jumper from the wing just before the buzzer sounded.

Chandler Parsons scored 20 points and Asik grabbed 14 rebounds for the Rockets. Duncan had 17 points and seven rebounds for the Spurs.

The teams could potentially meet in the first round of the playoffs, with the Spurs atop the Western Conference and Houston currently sitting at No. 7.

Their last matchup of the regular season had a postseason feel, with the lead changing hands nine times in the third quarter before Houston finished with an 11-4 spurt to lead 74-67. Harden went 6-for-6 from the free throw line and scored 12 points in the quarter, attacking the basket more than he did in the first half.

Rockets backup forward Greg Smith had the highlight of the game early in the fourth, throwing down a one-handed dunk over Tiago Splitter for an 81-74 lead. Carlos Delfino, Parsons and Jeremy Lin all missed open 3-pointers over the next three minutes and Splitter flipped in a hook shot and a reverse layup to keep the Spurs close.

Parker, in his second game back after returning from a sprained left ankle, then pushed San Antonio in front with his individual scoring spurt, including a fadeaway jumper over backup point guard Patrick Beverley.

Parker finished 7-for-13 from the field and also had seven assists.

Harden struggled early, missing his first four shots, including a would-be layup that Danny Green swooped in and blocked from behind. Duncan scored seven of San Antonio’s first 15 points. Beverley hit two running jumpers to end the first quarter then sank a 3-pointer early in the second quarter to put the Rockets up 25-20.

But the Spurs continued to bottle up Harden, sometimes using the 6-foot-11 Duncan to guard him.

San Antonio surged back in front with a 23-7 run, highlighted by a pair of Leonard dunks. Harden sank a 3-pointer with 1:03 left in the half then fouled Green behind the 3-point line at the other end. Green made all three free throws for a 46-41 Spurs lead.

Harden went 2-for-9 from the field in the first half then hit his first two shots in third quarter to help Houston move in front. Lin tried to throw an alley-oop pass his way, but Parker fouled Harden and he hit the floor. He sank both free throws for a 59-56 lead.

Notes: The Spurs had a four-game winning streak snapped. ... The Spurs committed 18 turnovers and were outrebounded 44-38. ... The Spurs assigned C Aron Baynes to the development league. The 6-foot-10 rookie from Australia has played in 11 games for the Spurs this season. ... Harden went 15-for-17 from the free throw line and now has 602 made free throws this season. ... Rockets F Francisco Garcia sat out with an illness. Garcia has played in eight games for Houston since coming over in a trade with Sacramento just before the Feb. 21 deadline. ... Former Rockets and Spurs C Moses Malone had a courtside seat next to the Houston bench. The Hall of Famer played for Houston from 1976-82 and with San Antonio in 1994-95.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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