Houston, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - Dwight Howard shook off a slow start and carried the Houston Rockets over the San Antonio Spurs, 97-90, with a 23- point, 16-rebound effort on Tuesday.
The Rockets, despite leading scorer James Harden being sidelined with a thumb injury, saw Terrence Jones step up with 21 points and nine rebounds and Jeremy Lin chip in with 18 points and eight assists.
Houston had won the previous two meetings against the Spurs this season and took the season series for the first time since the 1996-97 campaign -- the season before Tim Duncan arrived in San Antonio.
San Antonio, meanwhile, has dropped back-to-back games for the first time this season after losing at Miami in a 2013 NBA Finals rematch on Sunday. Boris Diaw posted a double-double with a season-high 22 points and 11 boards, while Duncan added 12 points and 14 rebounds in the setback.
"I thought, defensively, we did a pretty decent job of controlling the game for a long time, and then it just got away from us," Duncan said.
The Spurs, already without starters Tiago Splitter and Kawhi Leonard as well as key reserve Danny Green, may have lost another major contributor when Manu Ginobili appeared to injure his hamstring on a dunk at the midway point of the third quarter.
Ginobili's slam tied the game at 56-56, and the star forward never returned.
The Rockets took advantage of his absence and Howard's 10-of-16 showing at the free throw line over the final 3:58 of the third to take a 72-64 lead.
The Spurs, who had scored 100-plus points in their previous 15 games, netted just 18 in the third quarter and trailed by 11 early in the final stanza.
They got within a bucket, 90-88, following a Marco Belinelli 3-pointer with 1:47 remaining, but Howard's putback slam and Lin's step-back fadeaway gave the Rockets just enough breathing room inside the final minute.
The Spurs scored the game's first nine points and led by as many as 15 in the opening quarter, which Jones ended on a personal 8-2 run to get the Rockets within 28-20.
Howard missed his first eight shots from the field and did not make one until a dunk with 1:53 remaining in the half, but Houston nonetheless stayed within striking distance and trailed by just seven, 46-39, at halftime.
"We didn't give up. We kept fighting, we hit the offensive glass," Howard said. "Terrence got hot for a little bit and we just kept playing."
Duncan has recorded 785 career double-doubles (points-rebounds), tying him with Bill Russell for the sixth most in NBA history ... Howard has posted six consecutive double-doubles ... The Rockets avoided losing three straight games for the first time this season ... Houston has failed to score at least 40 first-half points just four times this season, the other three coming against Memphis ... The Spurs were 10-0 in games after a loss ... Tony Parker finished with 17 points for the Spurs, who were outrebounded by a 55-39 margin.