James Harden tries to make a pass in the game.
When the San Antonio Spurs were finally able to stop James Harden, his Houston Rockets teammates came through on defense.
Harden had a triple-double with 24 points, 15 assists and 12 rebounds while Houston made two late defensive stands to hold off San Antonio 101-99 on Wednesday night, handing the Spurs their third straight home loss.
“It was important for us,” Harden said. “The only way we’re going to get where we want to go is on the defensive end. The game wasn’t pretty, but defensively we got stops.”
Kawhi Leonard scored 34 points for the Spurs but missed his final two shots, either of which could have tied the game.
LaMarcus Aldridge missed a tip-in attempt at the buzzer and finished with 14 points and five rebounds.
“It was a good play that was called,” Leonard said of his last shot. “I got to the paint, got a shot off … it just didn’t fall. Aldridge had a good chance, it just fell short, but we’ll take that again.”
Leonard made 11 shots on a career-high 26 field goal attempts.
San Antonio extended its longest skid at home since dropping three straight overtime games in Dec 2014.
The Spurs did not lose at home last season until April 11 against Golden State and tied an NBA record by finishing 40-1 at the AT&T Center.
“It’s tough to win in this building,” said Rockets forward Ryan Anderson.
“They’re a team that obviously has some great players. To get a win in here, you’ve got to be happy.”
The Spurs used a rotation spearheaded by Leonard and Danny Green to defend Harden, but found little success.
Harden set an aggressive tone early with nine points, six assists and three rebounds in the first 12 minutes.
“He’s always been a great passer,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “He has the ball in his hands a lot more as the point guard. He is one of the best players in the league. Very difficult to guard.”
When Harden wasn’t draining jumpers and tossing in runners, he dished the ball out to open teammates after drawing multiple defenders on his drives.
The Rockets were 10 for 30 on 3-pointers and shot 47 percent in snapping a four-game skid at San Antonio.
Anderson was 4 for 6 on 3-pointers and had 20 points. Eric Gordon scored 15 and fellow reserve Sam Dekker added 12.
“Coach is liable to call anybody and guys stepped up,” Harden said. “Dekker hit some big shots for us.”
The Spurs sat Pau Gasol the entire second quarter in favor of a quicker lineup and it helped them erase a 13-point deficit to take a 51-50 lead.
San Antonio employed the same strategy late in the third to twice pull within a point, but could not overcome the Rockets even when Harden struggled.
He missed his final three shots as well as a pair of free throws and committed a turnover in the final three minutes, yet Houston was able to win with defense.
“The guys had my back,” Harden said.
“But those turnovers, those can’t happen consistently, or two missed free throws.”
Harden had his streak of four straight games with at least 30 points and 12 assists snapped.
Harden’s move to point guard has paid off for the Rockets, who are tied with the Spurs atop the Southwest Division at 5-3.
“He’s scoring a bundle and getting about 10 assists a game,” Popovich said.
“I think anybody would take that. That’s pretty darn good for anyone in this league.”