HOUSTON — Road-weary and eager to get home, the San Antonio Spurs spoke before Saturday night’s game about the importance of maintaining focus in the finale of their season-long road trip against the Houston Rockets.
They were able to do that, never trailing in a 104-94 win that let them tie the mark as the seventh-fastest team in NBA history to reach 50 wins.
Kawhi Leonard scored 27 points and LaMarcus Aldridge added 26 to give San Antonio a 7-1 record on their annual "Rodeo Road Trip" that coincides with the San Antonio Livestock Show and Rodeo. They also extended their NBA record of straight 50-win seasons to 17.
"This game is always very mental because it’s the last game on the road and everybody can’t wait to get home," Tony Parker said. "This was a great win. Everybody was very focused."
It was the fifth straight win for the Spurs (50-9), who have a double-digit lead in the Southwest Division and the second-best record in the NBA behind Golden State.
The Spurs showed no signs of fatigue despite wrapping up the long road stretch as they never trailed and held a double-digit lead for most of the night.
"Our guys played well and stayed locked in the whole trip," Aldridge said. "I think everybody was motivated to finish the trip off right."
San Antonio led by 31 points in the second half, but Houston slowly chipped away at the lead. James Harden and Jason Terry both made a 3-pointer to power a 6-2 run that made it 94-83 with less than four minutes left.
The Spurs slowed Houston down after that by intentionally fouling Dwight Howard, and Leonard and Aldridge both added baskets to secure the victory.
Harden led the Rockets with 27 points, but shot just 10 for 25 from the field.
"We got our shots, we just didn’t knock them down," Harden said. "We played with some aggressiveness in the second half, but it was a little bit too late."
Houston used a big run at the end of the third quarter to whittle down the lead, and scored the first six points of the fourth to pull to 76-63. San Antonio got back on track after that, scoring the next six points to make it 82-63 with nine minutes left.
The Spurs were up by 20 at halftime and used an 11-2 run to open the second half and extend the lead to 62-33 with eight minutes left in the third quarter. Houston missed seven shots and had a turnover to help San Antonio pad the lead.
Aldridge made four straight points to extend San Antonio’s lead to a game-high 31 points with about five minutes left in the third quarter. Houston scored the next eight points to get the Rockets to 71-48.
David West made a basket for San Antonio after that before the Rockets wrapped up the quarter with a 9-3 run to cut the lead to 76-57 entering the fourth.
The Spurs were up by 15 at the end of the first quarter and used an 8-2 run to open the second and push their lead to 34-13.
Houston used a 9-2 spurt later in the second to pull to 38-27, but San Antonio outscored the Rockets 13-4 over the rest of the quarter to take a 51-31 lead into halftime.
Spurs: San Antonio hasn’t played at home since Feb. 6. … Parker finished with 15 points. … Aldridge had 16 rebounds.
Rockets: C Clint Capela missed his second games in a row with a sprained right foot. … F Josh Smith started for the fourth straight game. … Trevor Ariza made two 3-pointers to extend his streak with at least one 3 to 29 games, the longest streak by a Rockets player since 39 in a row by Aaron Brooks in the 2009-10 season.
Tim Duncan blocked a shot by Harden in the first quarter to make him the fifth player in NBA history to reach 3,000 blocks. He also had six rebounds on Saturday night to give him 14,971 in his career, passing Karl Malone (14,968) for sixth place in league history.
"Unbelievable career and 3,000 blocks, that’s a lot," Parker said. "That’s a lot of great defence and Timmy’s been maybe one of the best defenders ever in the NBA."
Houston forward Donatas Motiejunas, who has been sidelined by a back injury, returned for the first time since Dec. 31. Motiejunas, who rejoined the Rockets earlier this week when a trade to the Pistons involving multiple players was rescinded because of a failed physical by one of the players, had two points and a rebound.
Spurs: Host Detroit on Wednesday.
Rockets: At Milwaukee on Monday.