While San Antonio Spurs center Tim Duncan may no longer be the centerpiece to the Spurs offense, he was able to play Captain Comeback tonight in leading the Spurs past the Rockets 99-91.
Duncan didn't act alone though, and If he was going to pair with anyone to dig the Spurs out of their first half rut, it would be a player he has won three NBA Championships with - Tony Parker.
"Tim and Tony did a great job of leafing the way for the whole group," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "I thought that everybody else followed. They never gave in because Timmy and Tony didn't allow them to."
The Rockets got off to a blazing start in the first quarter with a 13-3 run in the first four minutes of the quarter.
The Spurs were down 8-20 when the second unit started coming in. Danny Green and Tiago Splitter checked in with 5:20 left in the quarter, and Gary Neal and Matt Bonner soon followed, leading the Spurs on a 11-6 run to pull within ten points.
But when the quarter ended, Rockets guard Kevin Martin alone scored only three points less than the entire Spurs team.
While the Spurs did their best to guard Martin in the second quarter, he still scored eight points, with Courtney Lee chipping in as well.
While the second quarter didn't look much better than the first, it's when Duncan and Parker got going, accounting for 14 of the Spurs' 23 second quarter points.
Duncan got the ball down low, while Parker scored on several fast break layups. Parker ended the half with two consecutive layups, helping to trim the Rocket's 19 point lead down to 13 at the end of the half.
During the second half, the tables turned. Duncan continued his hot stream and the Spurs put the clamps on Martin, who only scored eight of his 29 points in the second half.
"I think we did a better job," Parker said. "Danny Green and Gary Neal both tried to contain him and make him drive. I thought we played more physical and were able to contain him as a team to force him to drive towards Timmy or Tiago."
Duncan put the Spurs on his back as he showed a bit of a younger Duncan, scoring on a variety of running jumpers, fadeaways,, layups and he got to the line, all adding up to 16 third quarter points, trimming an 18-point deficit down to four points.
While Rockets forward Patrick Patterson tried to fight off the Spurs momentum in the fourth quarter by knocking down several open baseline jumpers, the Rockets only got 12 points from the rest of the team.
Parker, Green, Bonner and Neal paced the Spurs, who eventually took the lead. A big rebound by Danny Green and an offensive charge taken by Neal shut the door on the Rocket's hopes of a late comeback, while the Spurs went on 8-0 run to close out the game.
"They played harder, they were at home and they're a very good team," Rockets forward Luis Scola said. "They're not just going to let us beat them by 20, they're going to fight back."
Duncan lead the Spurs in scoring with 25 points, Parker chipped in 24 and Gary Neal finished with 14 points.
"When you got Tim Duncan rolling and getting down low, you gotta respect that," Lee said. "And when you have Parker cutting and you got Bonner spotting up and you got Gary Neal, so it's like pick your poison. They did a good job of finding eachother."
The Spurs will be back in action tomorrow night against the New Orleans Hornets. Look for Paul Garcia's game preview before the game tomorrow.