By Video Games
The Spurs were more than ready to play on Friday night, if only because getting through the game meant that they could start looking toward defending their championship.
"I think we had a lot of guys that are glad it's the last preseason game and that next week we kind of get the real thing started up," said Brent Barry, who scored 13 points in San Antonio's 99-92 victory over the Houston Rockets in an exhibition game. "I think that a lot of the veteran guys are ready to get it going."
Michael Finley had 16 points and Tim Duncan added 11 for the Spurs, who will kick off the regular season Tuesday with a ceremony honoring the team's NBA title and giving the players, 12 of who are returning from last season, their championship rings.
"It's a really special celebration on Tuesday, kind of the last big celebration we'll have from that season and getting our rings," Barry said. "So we certainly don't want to take that for granted. We want to enjoy that moment and then (coach Gregg Popovich is) going to remind us we have a game to play."
San Antonio is hosting the Greg Oden-less Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday as they start the quest for their first-ever repeat and fifth title in 10 seasons.
Tracy McGrady led the Rockets with 21 points. Bonzi Wells added 13 and Yao Ming had 12 points and 12 rebounds.
Luis Scola, whose rights were obtained from the Spurs over the summer, started and had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Rockets.
The final preseason game provided one last chance for the teams to test rotations before the games start to count. Houston will open on the road against the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday.
"Well the best thing about this game is it was the last preseason game," said Houston's Shane Battier. "That's probably the best thing I can say about this game. No one got hurt and we're ready to move on after three good days of practice and start the season."
The Spurs rested Manu Ginobili and Bruce Bowen, while Duncan and Tony Parker played limited minutes on the second night of a back-to-back.
"This was just a good game for the team as whole," Finley said. "It just helped us get a workout in. Coach wanted us to take this challenge as a very intense practice, and that's what we did. I think we got a lot out of it."
Starter Steve Francis didn't play for Houston.
The absences let both teams take one more look at team hopefuls before Monday's roster deadline. The Spurs are down to 16, meaning they need to make one cut, while Houston listed 20 players.
"We just gotta get our defense better. They shot 51 percent for the whole game," McGrady said. "Most of the time, you let a team shoot over 50 percent you're going to lose those games and that's what happened tonight."
The Spurs were up 31-24 after the first quarter and extended their lead to as many as 14 in the second as Finley went 5-of-6 from the field, including two 3-pointers, for 12 points. His last basket of the period put the Spurs up 50-36 with 4:44 to go in the half. The Spurs finished 9-of-17 from beyond the arc.
Wells almost matched him, going 4-of-6 from the field, including two 3s, for 10 points in the quarter.
The Spurs led 54-48 at the break. Finley paced the Spurs with 14 points. McGrady had 13 for Houston.
"We missed a lot of shots, we missed a lot of lay-ups in the first half that we should have made," said new Rockets coach Rick Adelman. "Overall, you know, I guess if there's anything positive, it should be a good learning thing getting ready for the regular season coming up."
The Spurs kept a steady lead during the third quarter and were up by as many as 15.
Finley cooled, however, and Wells hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to bring the Rockets within 75-71 heading into the final period.
The Rockets threatened in the fourth, getting as close as 79-77 early, but the Spurs' reserves held the lead. Team hopeful Darius Washington had six points in the quarter.
Three other Spurs scored in the double digits. Matt Bonner had 12 points, Washington had 11 and Francisco Elson had 10.