NBA

Aldridge steps up to help Spurs down Rockets 103-92

HOUSTON (AP) -- LaMarcus Aldridge had been criticized through two games of the Western Conference semifinals for not doing enough for the San Antonio Spurs.

On Friday night, with the Spurs now without Tony Parker, he shook off his slow start to this series with a huge game that propelled his team to a 103-92 victory over the Houston Rockets and a 2-1 lead.

Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard scored 26 points apiece in San Antonio's first postseason game without Parker since 2001, which ended an NBA record of 221 straight playoff appearances for the Frenchman. The 34-year-old was injured in the fourth quarter of Game 2.

"You can't replace Tony Parker. He's a Hall of Famer one day, but I think guys just came out with a sense of urgency and just played hard," Aldridge said.

Aldridge had managed just 19 points combined in the first two games, but stepped up in the wake of Parker's season-ending leg injury, scoring nine points in the fourth quarter to help the Spurs pull away.

"I do what the team needs," Aldridge said. "Tonight this was needed and I did it. So I'm always going to try to be aggressive out there and try to make things happen."

Game 4 is Sunday night in Houston.

James Harden led the Rockets with 43 points after scoring just 13 in Game 2. But he had only five assists and complained about the officiating all night.

"We had several opportunities," Harden said. "As a unit we couldn't get it going consistently."

Coach Gregg Popovich started rookie Dejounte Murray in San Antonio's first game since Parker's quadriceps injury, instead of moving Patty Mills into the starting lineup. Mills had 15 points in 30 minutes and Murray scored just two points in 15 minutes.

"We started off pretty slow, but I think we did good," said Leonard, who had 10 rebounds and seven assists. "We got a win, but definitely still have to make some adjustments."

The Spurs led by six when Aldridge scored all of their points in a 7-2 run to make it 85-74 with about five minutes left.

"Aldridge sooner or later is going to go off because he's an All-Star," Houston coach Mike D'Antoni said. "Nothing they did should have bothered us. We just didn't play well."

Houston scored six straight points soon after that to get within eight, but Danny Green made two 3-pointers in less than a minute to push the lead to 94-82 with less than three minutes remaining.

San Antonio was up by six entering the fourth quarter and had a five-point lead with about 7 1/2 minutes remaining when Harden was given a technical foul for complaining after not getting a call. Leonard made the free throw to make it 78-72.

The Spurs led by four at halftime and pushed the lead to 52-43 early in the third quarter. San Antonio was up by 10 soon after that before the Rockets used a 10-1 spurt, with all the points from Harden, to cut it to 56-55 midway through the quarter.

Jonathon Simmons hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to leave San Antonio up 72-66 entering the fourth quarter.

Harden picked up his third foul with 5:18 left in the first quarter when he ran into Pau Gasol and crashed to the court while attempting a 3-pointer. Harden was outraged at the call, flipping over on his stomach on the court and kicking his legs in disbelief.

He remained upset after a timeout, approaching a referee and arguing the call, before finally calming down.

TIP-INS

Spurs: Parker had surgery on Friday to repair the ruptured quadriceps tendon in his left leg. The team said a timeline for his return will be determined later. … Gasol had 12 points and nine rebounds. … Green had 11 points.

Rockets: Trevor Ariza made five 3-pointers in the first half, but none after that. … Patrick Beverley received a technical foul in the fourth quarter. … Capela finished with 12 points and 16 rebounds. …Houston lost for the first time at home this postseason after winning their first three games.

ALDRIDGE IN HOUSTON

Aldridge has a history of big playoff games in Houston, posting the two highest-scoring games of his postseason career here by scoring 46 and 43 points in the first round against the Rockets in 2014 with Portland.

"I don't know what it is but I just like playing here," he said. "And tonight I just tried to take my shots and be confident and even if they didn't fall I just stayed with it."

THEY SAID IT

Green on Murray's play against veteran guard Beverley: "You've got a guy like Pat Beverley -- a junkyard dog -- hounding him up and down the court. It's not an easy task, but I think he got a little more comfortable as the game went on."

UP NEXT

After Sunday's game in Houston the series moves back to San Antonio for Game 5 on Tuesday night.