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NBA-worst Rockets beat Spurs to end 11-game losing streak

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) Tari Eason matched his season high with 20 points and the Houston Rockets ended an 11-game losing streak, beating the San Antonio Spurs 122-110 on Saturday night.

Alperen Sengun had 16 points and K.J. Martin and Josh Christopher each added 14 points for the Rockets in the opener of a home-and-home series.

Last in the NBA at 14-49, Houston had not won since Feb. 1.

“We just played together,” said Eason, a rookie out of LSU. “The ball has energy. So, you find the open man, they pass it to the next open man, and we just knocked down open shots.”

The Rockets had eight players score in double figures while shooting 56% from the field and finishing with 26 assists in snapping a five-game skid against the Spurs.

Devonte’ Graham had 28 points to lead San Antonio. Zach Collins added 14 points and 10 rebounds.

San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich and lead assistant Brett Brown returned after missing the Spurs’ game Thursday night against Indiana because of non-COVID illnesses.

The Spurs are still without Keldon Johnson, however, and Devin Vassell sat out after playing Thursday following a 25-game absence.

Vying for the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, San Antonio entered having won two straight after losing a franchise-record 16 straight. It is 4-24 in 2023. Houston is 4-23 in 2023.

Prior to the game, Popovich stressed the importance of patience for both teams in this transition season for both young rosters.

The Spurs and Rockets played with little patience offensively Saturday.

“I like to run and gun,” Graham said. “It was definitely fun for me, but they outran us tonight. Too many turnovers, second-chance points and points in the paint.”

Houston and San Antonio had 14 turnovers each. The Rockets had 30 fast-break points, 11 more than the Spurs.

“We have a lot of guys that are athletic, and we’re young, so we need to try to get out in transition as much as possible,” Christopher said.

San Antonio was 4 for 17 on 3-pointers in the second half after shooting 11 for 20 on 3s in the first half.

“We wanted to make sure that we were getting out to their shooters more and just a little bit more intentional,” Houston coach Stephen Silas said. I thought we were, not soft in the first half, but we weren’t getting after it the way that we could, and they made 11 3s in the first half and that’s why it was a two-point game at halftime. We knew if we had really kind of got after it on the defensive end and closed out and made it a little harder on them, we would have a better shot of winning the game.”

TIP-INS

Rockets: San Antonio honored former Rockets and Spurs guard Mario Elie following the first quarter. Elie won three NBA titles during an 11-year career, helping San Antonio capture its first championship in 1999. The tribute is part of the Spurs’ season-long 50th Anniversary celebration. … Jae’Sean Tate was held out for injury management following a sprained right ankle. … The Rockets’ last victory over the Spurs was Jan. 12, 2022, in San Antonio.

Spurs: Johnson missed his second straight game with a sprained left foot. Johnson has missed eight games this season while leading the Spurs in scoring at 21.8 points per game. … Vassell sat out for injury management after playing for the first time since undergoing arthroscopic left knee surgery on Jan. 11.

I JUST COACH

Popovich was somewhat unfamiliar with Sandro Mamukelashvili prior to the game.

The Spurs signed the center from Georgia after he was waived by the Milwaukee Bucks.

“I have no idea,” Popovich said when asked about Mamukelashvili. “I just coach whoever walks in the gym, It’s not my job (acquiring talent).”

Mamukelashvili had six points and two rebounds in 16 minutes. —

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