Spurs Ground Rockets

Mario Elie and Avery Johnson always get a charge out of beating their former team.

Johnson scored 10 of his 14 points in a crucial third quarter and Elie burned his former teammates with two crucial 3-pointers as the San Antonio Spurs held off the Houston Rockets 95-85 Friday night.

"That's why I'm here," Elie said. "It's like when Terry Porter came up big, I was here for our guys. I don't get many shots, but when I get open shots, I've got to knock them down."

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  • San Antonio took a 72-71 lead into the fourth quarter and led thereafter. Elie's 3-point basket with 7:13 to play gave the Spurs an 81-77 lead after the Rockets got within one.

    With 1:42 to go and the Rockets trailing by five points, Elie sank another 3-pointer that ended Houston's hopes.

    Porter came off the bench lead the Spurs with 18 points. Elie finished with 15. Tim Duncan had 14 points and 10 rebounds and David Robinson had 10 points and 11 rebounds.

    "My game is pretty simple," Porter said. "When Avery needs a rest, that's when I'm going to get minutes. Right now, my shot is going real good. I'm trying to contribute with that. It's exciting the way we started this year."

    Walt Williams led the Rockets with 19 points and Barkley had 18 points and 13 rebounds.

    "You have to remain positive and this is a test for us," Barkley said. "You can't quit. You can die or pass out but you can't quit. We are only three games into the season but we need to get it together."

    The victory gave the purs a 3-0 state and the Rockets an 0-3 start.

    Steve Francis stole the ball on the Spurs' end and drove the length of the court before passing to Walt Williams, who got the basket while being fouled. The three-point play gave Houston a 26-25 lead with 16 seconds left in the first quarter.

    The Spurs went on a 10-2 run early in the second quarter for their biggest lead of the half at 39-30. Porter scored 11 points over the final seven minutes of the quarter, allowing San Antonio to retain the lead.

    "It's a great start," Robinson said. "It could not have started much better than it has. We're not playing as good as we can play. It's exciting to be 3-0 and getting the arena makes it a great week."

    The Spurs got approval on Tuesday for a new arena. The Rockets had a similar proposal rejected.

    "We're still making mistakes on the game plan, who to leave, who not to leave," Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. "That is so frustrating because we are spending so much time talking about `don't leave this guy, or do this."'


  • Spurs starters Chucky Brown, Mario Elie and Avery Johnson are former Rockets players.
  • The Spurs have nine players in their 10th NBA season.
  • Steve Francis led NBA rookies in scoring in the preseason and entered Friday night's game ranked No. 6 with a 11.0 average for the regular season.
  • After 148 consecutive regular-season sellouts, the Rockets failed to sell out its home opener Tuesday, the same day a new arena plan was soundly defeated by Harris County voters. Friday's game was a sellout.

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