Spurs tangle with Rockets in Space City

Updated: December 10, 2012

The San Antonio Spurs hope to match their longest winning streak of the season on Monday night as they tangle with the Houston Rockets for the second time in four days.

The Spurs won five in a row from Nov. 21-28 before dropping a five-point decision at Miami to end the month. San Antonio, though, has picked things right back up, winning its first four games of December.

The latest victory came on Saturday, when the Spurs hit a franchise-record 19 3-point shots in a 132-102 pounding of the Charlotte Bobcats. Danny Green had 23 points, connecting on a career-high seven shots from behind the arc.

Tony Parker added 22 points and nine assists, while Manu Ginobili had 11 points and hit three 3-pointers.

“We were fortunate in that we made a lot of threes,” said San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich. “It’s not something that you’ll normally see in a game, but we were able to hit our shots and made it really hard on Charlotte.”

The Spurs won the opener of a four-game road trip, improved to 10-2 on the road this season and are tied for the NBA lead with 17 wins.

San Antonio’s win came one night after it picked up a 114-92 home triumph over Houston. Parker led six Spurs in double figures with 17 points to go along with seven assists, while Tim Duncan had 12 points and 12 rebounds.

The Spurs scored the game’s first six points and led wire-to-wire in beating the Rockets for the seventh time in the last 10 meetings.

San Antonio has lost its past three trips to Houston and the Rockets will have a bit of a different look in this game as head coach Kevin McHale returned from his near one-month absence from the team in Saturday’s 116-109 setback against the Dallas Mavericks.

McHale left the team on Nov. 10 and his return came two weeks after his daughter Alexandra “Sasha” McHale passed away at the age of 23 following complications from Lupus.

The Rockets went 7-6 under assistant coach Kelvin Sampson in McHale’s absence.

Houston came out inspired by the return of its coach, rallying from 19 points down in the first half to carry a three-point lead into the break. However, the Rockets failed to hold an 11-point lead of their own with 9:25 to play.

“We’ve got to get more emotion and more thrust in our offense, especially down the stretch,” McHale said. “We have to play with more pace in the fourth quarter.”

James Harden scored 30 points in the first half, but struggled over the final two quarters because of a right ankle injury suffered in the first quarter. He ended with 39 points, six rebounds and nine assists while logging 45:47 of game action.

“I tried to give him a little rest but he said it started stiffening up on him. He’s a tremendous, tremendous player, but right now we’re honestly probably relying on him a little bit too much,” McHale said of Harden.

The guard did not practice on Sunday and is likely to be a game-time decision for tonight.

Houston, which has lost two straight and had a six-game home winning streak snapped in the opener of a four-game homestand, got 29 points, five assists and four steals from Harden in Friday’s loss to the Spurs.