Houston, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - Chandler Parsons tallied 21 points to lead a balanced scoring attack for the Houston Rockets, who secured home-court advantage for their first-round playoff series with a 104-98 victory over the San Antonio Spurs.
Dwight Howard added 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting while pulling down 17 rebounds to help Houston complete a season sweep of the NBA-best Spurs and clinch the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference. The Rockets will take on Portland in the quarterfinals.
Terrence Jones finished with 20 points and 11 boards in the win, with James Harden netting 16 points along with seven assists despite a 4-of-16 performance from the field.
Having already sewn up the league's best record for the regular season, the Spurs did send out their "Big Three" of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, but rested several other key players.
Marco Belinelli paced San Antonio with 17 points, with Duncan posting 12 points and nine rebounds and Jeff Ayres also recording 12 points while coming off the bench.
Despite playing without two-thirds of their starting frontcourt in Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter, as well as guards Danny Green and Patty Mills, the Spurs overcame a 14-point first-half deficit and held an 87-82 lead with six minutes to play. The Rockets reversed the momentum with a 13-3 run, however, and never trailed thereafter.
Back-to-back layups by Howard and Jones gave Houston a 92-90 edge with 3:32 remaining, and Harden was fouled while trying a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession. He sank all three bonus attempts to extend the margin to five with three minutes left.
Though he struggled shooting for most of the night, Harden came through in crunch time, burying a step-back jumper with 50.5 seconds left that put Houston up 100-94. After the Spurs' Boris Diaw misfired on the other end, Parsons sealed the outcome with a pair of free throws.
The Spurs went a poor 6-of-24 from the floor in the first quarter and were down 30-21 at period's end, and an Omer Asik dunk followed by a Patrick Beverley three had Houston ahead by 14 points early in the second.
San Antonio managed to pull within 50-43 at the half, then put forth a 5-0 spurt early in the third quarter to cut the lead to 55-52. Houston then responded with a 12-3 burst -- highlighted by a pair of Parsons triples -- to restore a double-digit cushion.
The Rockets led 76-62 late in the third when San Antonio came storming back, ripping off 13 straight points and closing within one on Diaw's jumper less than two minutes into the fourth quarter.
Houston took all four meetings to record its first season sweep of the Spurs since 1992-93 ... Parsons returned to the lineup after sitting out Saturday's win over New Orleans with wrist and hip injuries ... Ginobili, who missed Friday's game against Phoenix with a strained calf, had 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting ... Parker ended with 10 points as well in 26 minutes ... Houston finished the regular season 33-8 at home ... The Spurs will host the Lakers in Wednesday's finale, with the Rockets visiting New Orleans on Wednesday.