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Rockets Face Must Win Game Against Spurs

(Sports Network) - Not even a surprise return of future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan could spur San Antonio to victory versus Boston in a matchup between NBA heavyweights in the Alamo City.

Tonight, the Spurs look to avoid their longest losing streak since the 1996-97 season when they take on the Southwest Division-rival Houston Rockets from the Toyota Center. The Spurs have suffered five losses in a row for the first time since ending the 96-97 campaign with six consecutive defeats. The top seed in the Western Conference and another division title don't appear to be guarantees anymore for San Antonio.

San Antonio still has the best record in the NBA at 57-18 and sits 2 1/2 games ahead of the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers for conference supremacy. It is also just four games in front of Dallas in both the West and Southwest standings with seven games to go.

In a 107-97 setback to the Celtics last night at the AT&T Center, Duncan returned from a four-game absence because of an ankle problem to register 20 points and 13 rebounds. Tony Parker led the way with 23 points and Richard Jefferson ended with 14 for the Spurs.

"It was a tough loss. They (Celtics) played well and they deserved the win. Now we move on and try to play better in Houston," Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said.

The Spurs have lost three in a row on the road and are 24-13 as the visitor.

While the Spurs are already locked in for a postseason spot, Houston's chances of a fourth playoff appearance in five years are hanging by a thread.

The Rockets are three games behind Memphis for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West with seven to go, and lost for only the second time in eight tries with Wednesday's 108-97 loss to Philadelphia in the finale of a three- game road trip. Kyle Lowry, a former Villanova star, led the Rockets with 19 points while Kevin Martin and Luis Scola netted 18 and 17 points, respectively, in a losing cause.

"We've just got seven more games left and [have to] make the best out of it," Rockets guard Kevin Martin said.

Chase Budinger scored 15 points for the Rockets, who will begin a three-game homestand Friday versus the Spurs, Hawks and Kings, and are 22-14 in Space City this season.

San Antonio is attempting to sweep the season series from Houston for the first time since winning all four meetings in 2005-06. The Spurs have won four straight and eight of 12 encounters with the Rockets.

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