Rockets rally past Spurs 109-105 in 1st game without Harden

Houston Rockets guard John Wall (1) comes up with a loose ball in front of San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)
Houston Rockets guard John Wall (1) comes up with a loose ball in front of San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

SAN ANTONIO – Christian Wood had 27 points and 15 rebounds, and the Houston Rockets rallied to beat the San Antonio Spurs 109-105 on Thursday night in their first game since trading away franchise cornerstone James Harden.

Sterling Brown, who took Harden’s spot in the starting lineup, had 23 points, seven rebounds and three assists in 36 minutes.

Spurs forward Keldon Johnson had a career-high 29 points and Lonnie Walker IV added 16 points while tying a career-high with four 3-pointers.

Houston staged a 15-2 run to lead 105-101 with 1:46 left. Brown had a wild, overhead shot land on the top of the backboard for an out-of-bounds call with 9.5 seconds remaining. Spurs veteran DeMar DeRozan missed a 15-footer with 0.4 seconds left, and San Antonio fouled P.J. Tucker, who made two free throws to seal it.

The teams meet again Saturday at the AT&T Center in the finale of a two-game set in San Antonio.

Houston was playing its first game since sending Harden to the Brooklyn Nets in a four-team blockbuster trade on Wednesday. Victor Oladipo, Dante Exum and Rodions Kurucs, who the Rockets acquired along with numerous draft picks and draft swaps for Harden, are not with the team yet.

The Rockets were also without John Wall and Eric Gordon due to injuries. The upheaval led to more minutes for the remaining roster, and they took advantage of it.

Seven players scored at least nine points, with Mason Jones and K.J. Martin scoring nine points each to set career highs.

It was Houston’s first game without Harden since 2012, when Oklahoma City traded its young guard to the Rockets primarily due to salary cap constraints.

The Rockets’ first points of the game came on a layup by Jae’Sean Tate. Houston kept a quick tempo in racing to a 14-6 lead, which prompted a timeout by San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich with 7:41 remaining in the opening period. The Rockets extended the lead to 21-11 over the next two minutes with Wood accounting for 10 points.

The Spurs took their first lead at 49-48 on a pull-up jumper by Dejounte Murray with 10:18 remaining in the third quarter.

Murray finished with 10 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.