SAN ANTONIO – The Houston Rockets gave away a 23-point lead, Dwight Howard was being fouled intentionally and the disdain of the San Antonio Spurs’ sellout crowd was roaring down on them in the final minutes of the game.
It was a tense situation that Houston would have folded under last season, James Harden readily admits. The Rockets demonstrated Saturday night that they are a different team this season, even if it is early.
Harden scored 31 points, Chandler Parsons had 25, and Houston overcame a furious second-half rally to beat San Antonio 112-106, handing the Spurs their first home defeat this year.
“It’s a great win for us,” Harden said. “Last year we probably would have caved in; they would have beaten us by a lot. So, this year the improvement we’ve adjusted to has been tremendous. A back-to-back in San Antonio is always tough, but we showed resiliency and pulled out a great win.”
Harden had 16 points in the final quarter, going 4-for-8 from the field and 7-for-10 on free throws in leading Houston (13-5) to its fifth straight victory.
Howard had 13 points and 11 rebounds, Terrence Jones added 10 points and 16 boards, and Patrick Beverly scored 11 points.
Tony Parker had 27 points, Tim Duncan added 20 and Marco Belinelli scored 18 for San Antonio (14-3), which has lost two of three.
The Spurs outscored Houston 39-26 to open the second half, with Belinelli scoring 13 points after halftime to set up a furious finish.
Harden hit a high-arcing, off-balance 3-pointer to tie the game 106-106 with a minute remaining.
“That was the shot of the game,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.
Parker then missed a driving layup over Howard, and Beverly tipped in Harden’s miss to put Houston up 108-106 with 32 seconds remaining.
Manu Ginobili missed a 3-pointer, enabling Houston to outlet to Parsons for a dunk and a 110-106 lead with 16 seconds left to seal a victory over its longtime state rival.
“It’s going to be a dogfight every time we see these guys,” Howard said. “And that’s what we want. That’s going to make us better as a team, and it’s going to make it fun for the fans to watch.”
San Antonio finished 9 of 26 on 3s, including 2 of 9 in the first half. Without the Spurs’ usual crisp ball movement, Parker was forced to take the offense into his own hands, going 13-for-27 from the field.
“Definitely,” Harden said. “If you get Tony Parker to put a lot of shots up, it takes away from all their guys knocking down 3s and getting us off balance.” T-Wolves 112, Mavericks 106
In Dallas, Kevin Martin had 27 points with some key baskets late, Kevin Love had his usual double-double and Minnesota snapped a three-game losing streak with a victory over the Mavericks.
Love finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds. All five starters scored in double figures for the Timberwolves, who had lost five of their previous six games. Wizards 108, Hawks 101
In Washington, John Wall had 26 points and 12 assists, Trevor Ariza scored 24 points and made five 3-pointers, and the Wizards beat the Hawks.
Washington has won six of its last eight, and has won eight games in November for the first time since 1984. Cavaliers 97, Bulls 93
In Cleveland, Andrew Bynum and Dion Waiters each scored 20 points, and the Cavaliers held off a late rally by the Chicago.
Cleveland, which had lost five straight and eight of nine, built a 12-point lead in fourth quarter, but the Bulls rallied for an 88-87 edge on Tony Snell’s basket with 3:59 remaining. Nets 97, Grizzlies 88
In Memphis, Joe Johnson scored 26 points, Brook Lopez added 12 of his 20 in the fourth quarter, and the Nets beat the Grizzlies.
Andray Blatche scored 21 off Brooklyn bench, making all three shots from beyond the arc. Bucks 92, Celtics 85
In Milwaukee, O.J. Mayo rebounded from a subpar game with 22 points and the Bucks snapped an 11-game losing streak with a victory over Boston.
Jared Sullinger scored 21 points and had 14 rebounds, while Jeff Green and Jordan Crawford added 18 points apiece for the Celtics. Jazz 112, Suns 104
In Phoenix, rookie Trey Burke had the biggest game of his young NBA career, scoring 20 points to lead seven Utah players in double figures and the Jazz to their first road victory of the season.
Richard Jefferson added 15 for Utah, which was 0-9 on the road entering the contest and lost 112-101 at home to Phoenix on Friday night. Marvin Williams and Derrick Favors added 14 apiece.
Goran Dragic had 24 points and nine assists for the Suns. Channing Frye added 17 points for Phoenix.