Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Spurs Abort Countdown by Rockets, Trail 2-1 Late Run Puts San Antonio Back in Series

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Spurs Abort Countdown by Rockets, Trail 2-1 Late Run Puts San Antonio Back in Series

Article excerpt

Forget that Rockets rout. Put away the broom.

The San Antonio Spurs, their season in apparent death throes after two home losses to Houston, climbed back into the Western Conference finals Friday night with a 107-102 road victory, snapping the Rockets' five-game playoff winning streak.

Houston still leads the best-of-seven series 2-1, with Game 4 Sunday in Houston.

"Hopefully this is the kick-start to the Spurs," San Antonio's David Robinson said, "and now we can get back to playing the way we know we're capable of playing."

Hakeem Olajuwon scored 43 points and blocked five shots on the heels of his 41-point performance in Wednesday's 106-96 victory.

But his supporting cast, so reliable in the first two games, failed as San Antonio rallied from 11 points down early in the third quarter. The Spurs then broke away from an 89-89 tie in the final six minutes.

For the first time in the series, the Spurs looked like the team that had the league's best record at 62-20.

Avery Johnson, who had 20 points and 13 assists, made five of six free throws in the final 45 seconds to clinch the victory and assure a Game 5 next Tuesday night in San Antonio. The Spurs' point guard, playing despite a sore right ankle, had no turnovers.

"Our defensive intensity was through the sky," said Robinson, the league's MVP. "The last couple of games, we were disjointed."

Robinson scored six of his 29 points during an 11-2 run that put the Spurs ahead 100-91 with 2 minutes 5 seconds to play. But, as usual, the defending NBA champions didn't die easily.

Robert Horry made his fourth 3-pointer with 1:48 to play to make it 101-94. Then, after San Antonio's Dennis Rodman made one of two free throws, Kenny Smith made his fourth 3 of the game to cut the lead to 101-97 with 1:27 to go.

Olajuwon missed a 14-footer and Johnson made two free throws with 45 seconds to play.

Olajuwon's 3-pointer with 32 seconds left sliced the lead to 103-100. But Johnson made two free throws with 26 seconds to go, then made one of two with 16 seconds remaining to make it 106-100.

"We were overdue for a performance and we finally got one," San Antonio coach Bob Hill said. …

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