Thanks to a 37-point third quarter that saw the Houston Rockets outscore the San Antonio Spurs by 12 points, the visitors came away with a 109-92 win on Thursday night.
The Spurs ran with four of their five projected starters, with Kawhi Leonard the only missing link. However, San Antonio was unable to get anything going offensively, and shot just 39.2 percent from the field on the night.
Tim Duncan and Tony Parker each saw more than 20 minutes of action, but neither was able to crack double-figures in the scoring column. Parker finished with eight while Duncan managed just six. Not one player on the Spurs finished with a positive plus/minus total.
Harden led all scorers with 22 points on 7-of-16 shooting, and added 11 assists to finish with a double-double. Howard's final stat line was also filled with double-figure totals as the Rockets' free-agent prize dropped 15 points, grabbed 16 rebounds and blocked two shots in 30 minutes of action. He also committed a game-high four turnovers.
A major reason for the Spurs' defensive struggles was the frontcourt pairing of Howard and Omer Asik. While questions linger regarding their ability to co-exist on the offensive end, they stifled the Spurs' starting frontcourt time and again, packing the paint and forcing San Antonio to settle for jumpers.
Along with the Rockets' stars and their defense, a contributing factor to their victory was the steady production of their bench. Omri Casspi came up large with 16 points (4-of-8 from three), while Francisco Garcia added eight and Donatas Motiejunas chipped in seven of his own down the stretch.
Keep it locked on Bleacher Report throughout the night for further analysis of the Rockets' win over the Spurs.