HOUSTON -- Houston center Dwight Howard delivered a pair of critical offensive rebounds down the stretch to help the Rockets cap a 97-90 comeback win over the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday night at Toyota Center.
Howard corralled guard Aaron Brooks' errant 3-pointer and added a slam dunk to double the Rockets' lead to 92-88 with 1:28 remaining. And, after missing a pair of free throws, Howard tipped the offensive rebound out to guard Patrick Beverly, who initiated a reset of the offense that later yielded a bank shot by guard Jeremy Lin with 48 seconds left.
Howard finished with 23 points and 16 rebounds, overcoming a frustrating offensive effort that included his missing 10 of 15 shots. Lin, substituting for the injured James Harden, paired 18 points with eight rebounds and forward Terrence Jones added 21 points and nine boards.
The Spurs (33-12) led 46-39 at the break but saw that lead evaporate quickly as the Rockets (30-17) outscored San Antonio 33-18 in the third quarter. The Rockets improved to 3-0 against the Spurs this season.
Forward Boris Diaw paced the Spurs with 22 points and 11 rebounds while center Tim Duncan added 12 points and 14 rebounds. Duncan posted a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds in the first half.
The Spurs blitzed the Rockets from the opening tip, converting their opening five shot attempts while extending to a 13-4 lead. Duncan added a pair of layups on consecutive possessions midway through the period to build the San Antonio cushion to 17-6 and inspiring Rockets coach Kevin McHale to quickly call his second timeout of the quarter.
It wasn't until Duncan gave the Spurs a 21-6 lead with a baseline slam dunk that Houston stirred from its stupor, with forward Donatas Motiejunas drilling a 3-pointer before Jones carried the Rockets the remainder of the period, closing with 10 points as the other starters struggled.
Houston managed to make it to the intermission trailing by only seven points, even though Howard started 0-for-8 from the floor and Parsons closed the half scoreless on 0-for-6 shooting. Jones and Lin essentially carried the offense while the Spurs cooled, missing several open looks and shooting 8-for-22 in the second.
NOTES: Rockets G James Harden missed his seventh game this season, sidelined this time with a bruised left thumb suffered last Saturday night against the Memphis Grizzlies. Harden has performed exceptionally against the Spurs since joining Houston prior to last season, averaging 30 points with an effective field-goal percentage of 60.7 percent, plus six rebounds and six assists over five games. ... The Spurs were without G/F Danny Green (fractured left hand), F Kawhi Leonard (fractured right hand) and C Tiago Splitter (sprained right shoulder). ... The next win for the Spurs' Big Three of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker would be their 485th game together, matching the Los Angeles Lakers' trio of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Cooper and Magic Johnson for second all-time. The Boston Celtics' trio of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish won 540 games together. ... Spurs coach Gregg Popovich moved past Red Auerbach and into sole possession of 10th place with 939 wins. Up next: Bill Fitch (944 wins).