HOUSTON (AP) — After the Houston Rockets completed the biggest comeback in franchise history, Russell Westbrook was asked about the key to the win.
The star guard didn’t speak for several seconds. He simply patted his chest several times, crediting the Rockets’ heart for the victory.
Westbrook scored 31 points, James Harden had 28 and Houston set a franchise record by overcoming a 25-point deficit to beat the San Antonio Spurs 109-107 on Monday night.
“Sometimes you’ve got to want it more than the other team,” Westbrook said. “It’s that simple. No plays or no possessions or no shots can change that.”
The comeback eclipses the 23-point deficit Houston faced in a 110-107 victory against Portland on Jan. 22, 1977.
The game was tied with 2 1/2 minutes remaining when Houston’s P.J. Tucker hit a 3-pointer from the corner. A layup by Rudy Gay got the Spurs within one with just under a minute left before Harden missed a 3 on the other end.
A 3-pointer by Bryn Forbes rolled on the rim before bouncing out, and Harden made two free throws to extend the lead to 109-106 with 16.2 seconds left.
Forbes missed another 3 with 10 seconds left, but the Spurs got the ball back when Clint Capela knocked the the ball out of bounds while fighting for a rebound. The Rockets then intentionally fouled two times, and Derrick White made a free throw before purposely missing the second one with 2.7 seconds left. But Westbrook grabbed the rebound to secure the win.
Houston fell behind early in a game where Harden had just nine points on 4-of-17 shooting in the first half. He warmed up after the break and finished 10 of 29.
“My confidence is never gone, no matter if I go 0 for 20 or whatever,” he said. “I’m always going to shoot the ball and be aggressive. Early my shot wasn’t falling … and then other guys stepped up.”
The Spurs managed just 35 points after setting a season high for first-half scoring. LaMarcus Aldridge led San Antonio with 19 points and 13 rebounds, and Forbes had 18 points.
“Some ways it’s like your worst nightmare to go up 20 quickly because you know the thing is going to turn to some degree,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “So the way it was an even game down the stretch is pretty much what you’d expect most of the time.”
It was the first meeting between the teams since a 135-133 win by the Spurs in double overtime on Dec. 3 in which a dunk by Harden was wrongly disallowed, leading to a protest by the Rockets. Houston lost the protest, which would have resulted in part of the game being replayed. But the league said it disciplined the officials who got the call wrong and botched the aftermath by not allowing Houston to challenge the ruling.
The Rockets cut the lead to three on a dunk by Capela with about 10 minutes left before DeMar DeRozan scored four quick points to stretch it to 93-86.
A 13-4 run by Houston made it 99-97 with five minutes to go, lifting the Rockets to their first lead since 2-0. The Rockets got four points from Danuel House and a 3 from Harden in that stretch while the Spurs missed seven shots.
DeRozan tried to explain how things went so wrong for the Spurs after the break.
“They just picked it up,” he said. “We kind of slacked. It’s always hard playing with a lead. Every single quarter, you have to play even harder, because nobody wants to get embarrassed.”
The Spurs were up 72-53 at halftime.
THEY SAID IT
Popovich on if playing four straight overtime games caught up to the Spurs on Monday night: “How would I know that? Is there a way to gauge that? Right.”
Spurs: Dejounte Murray received a technical for pushing Harden in the first quarter. Harden also got a technical. … White had 16 points off the bench.
Rockets: The Rockets made just 11 of 43 3s. … Capela had 15 points and 15 rebounds.
Spurs: Host Brooklyn on Thursday night.
Rockets: Visit the Clippers on Thursday night in the opener of a four-game road trip.