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Rockets thump Spurs, move to 6-0

Houston, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - Dwight Howard had a field day with Tim Duncan sidelined, totaling 32 points and 16 rebounds as Houston dominated the short-handed San Antonio Spurs, 98-81, on Thursday.

While the blowout victory was somewhat diminished because Duncan and Manu Ginobili both sat out, the Rockets nevertheless ran their record to 6-0 for the first time since the 1996-97 season.

Howard shot 12-of-18 from the field and 8-of-13 from the foul line for a Houston squad that has won all six of its games by double digits. The only other team to accomplish that feat was the 1985-86 Nuggets.

James Harden contributed 20 points, six boards and six assists, and Jason Terry added 16 points off the bench in the rout.

Tony Parker scored just six points for the Spurs, who never led and trailed by as many as 31. Cory Joseph led San Antonio with 18 points, while Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green combined to shoot 20.8 percent (5-of-24) from the field.

The Spurs connected on just two of their 20 3-point attempts and shot 34.4 percent (31-of-90) overall.

The always forward-thinking Gregg Popovich rested Duncan and Ginobili on the second game of a back-to-back, while Tiago Splitter (calf) and Marco Belinelli (groin) were both sidelined with injuries.

"We have to have all of our parts to be at our best," Popovich said. "We have to do it as a group."

With four regulars out of the mix, the Spurs missed their first 11 shots but still only trailed by three, 18-15, heading into the second quarter.

A Joseph floater made it a one-point game before the Rockets started taking control. An 8-0 run was highlight by Terry's four-point play and capped by one of Howard's five alley-oop dunks in the opening half.

"It really didn't matter who they had on the floor. It's my job to go out there and set the intensity," Howard said.

Howard already had a double-double of 20 points and 12 rebounds by halftime, and Houston went into the break holding a comfortable 45-29 lead after Harden got a runner to fall and blocked a driving Joseph in the closing seconds.

The Rockets' fearsome duo kept the foot on the gas in the third quarter. Howard converted another alley-oop on Houston's first possession and added a putback while being fouled a minute later.

Harden converted a four-point play, a layup and a thunderous dunk over Aron Baynes on consecutive possessions, stretching the lead to 64-41 near the midway point of the frame.

The Spurs trailed 81-55 after three quarters and only got as close as 14 in the final quarter.

Game Notes

The Rockets swept the season series last season and have won six straight meetings against their Southwest Division rivals ... Houston was without guard Patrick Beverley due to a nagging hamstring injury ... Houston shot 55.8 percent from the field over the first three quarters ... Baynes posted a double-double of 12 points and 12 rebounds.