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by: Kris Gardner, United States Basketball Writers Association member. Credentialed media member since 1997. USBWA approved online journalist. Voter of Katrina McClain, Naismith, USBWA, and Wooden awards.

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Rockets cruise and crush Spurs, 98-81

Posted: November 6, 2014 -- 11:10 pm.

HOUSTON, TX (Toyota Center) -- The San Antonio Spurs did not play Tim Duncan (rest), Manu Ginobli (rest), Marco Belinelli (right groin strain), Patty Mills (out until December, shoulder), nor Tiago Splitter (calf). The Houston Rockets' Terrence Jones (leg injury) and Patrick Beverley (hamstring) did not play either.

Advantage Rockets.

"I think you learn about players. You learn about the other team; and, what they like to do and what we need to do to play them," said Spurs' head coach, Gregg Popovich. "We are a 'some of the parts' team. We have to have all of our parts to be at our best. We can't rely on one player. We have to do it as a group. If we have injuries, we need our full bench to continue to play at our best."

Dwight Howard dominated what was left of the Spurs' big men and scored 32 points (12 for 18 from the floor) and pulled down 16 rebounds in 32 minutes and 38 seconds. James Harden added 20 points; dished six assists; and pulled down six boards. Jason Terry scored 16 points off the bench in 20 minutes; and Isaiah Canaan chipped in 12 points and played solid defense on Tony Parker to help the Rockets cruise to the easy 98-81 victory and improve to 6-0 to start the season.

"I thought we did a pretty good job," said Kevin McHale. "Of course, them not having Duncan and Ginobli, who's a huge playmaker, makes them short-handed. But, I thought, defensively, we did a lot of good stuff. I thought Dwight got us off to a really good start; and, in the third quarter, when we pushed the ball and attacked, we looked good on the offensive end. I thought our defense did solid all night."

The Rockets led 18-15 after a sluggish first quarter mainly due to six turnovers in the opening 12 minutes which negated their 7 for 15 made field goals.

The Spurs' struggles continued in the second quarter as the Rockets limited the Spurs to one less bucket in the second period (5 field goals) than the first quarter.

"We've been doing that all preseason and all of the first five or six games of the regular season thus far," James Harden said. "That's our mindset - even if offensively, when we're not scoring the ball or making shots, we have to rely on our defense - and, that's going to get us over the hump."

Dwight Howard scored 10 points in the second quarter; and, Jason Terry also scored 10 in the second quarter on 2 made three-point shots and four free throws (from two additional 3-point shot attempts).

The Rockets led 45-29 at halftime before James Harden and Dwight Howard combined for 23 of the team's 36 points in the third quarter to blow the game wide open.

The Rockets host the 4-0 Golden State Warriors this Saturday at 7 p.m.

CLICK HERE for The HRR's Rockets' write-ups.

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