HOUSTON -- — Dejounte Murray scored a career-high 33 points and the San Antonio Spurs held on for a 123-120 win over the Houston Rockets Monday night to inch closer to the final play-in spot in the Western Conference.
It was the fourth straight victory for the Spurs, who moved within one-half game of the Los Angeles Lakers for the 10th spot in the West.
“We hung in there and got it done so I’m proud of the guys," coach Gregg Popovich said.
Keldon Johnson had 21 points and Jakob Poeltl added 17 points with 13 rebounds as the Spurs dominated inside, outscoring Houston 72-30 in the paint. San Antonio had a season-high 82 points in the paint in a win over Houston on Jan. 25.
“I see growth in this group it seems like every day," coach Stephen Silas said. “Even when we lose I feel like there ae moments where we grow."
A 3-pointer by Kenyon Martin Jr. got the Rockets within three points with 21.5 seconds to go. Murray's free throw gave San Antonio a 121-117 edge.
Josh Christopher hit a 3 for the Rockets to make it 121-120 with 9.6 seconds left. This time Murray made both free throws to push the lead to three.
The Rockets had a chance to tie it at the buzzer, but Martin's 3-pointer rolled in and out of the basket.
“I can't believe it didn't go in," he said. “But we fought until the end and I'm so proud of our guys."
San Antonio led by seven points with just over a minute remaining on two free throws by Murray, who had 11 assists and seven rebounds on his career scoring night.
Popovich joked that Murray should be fined for falling short of a triple-double.
“He’s been special this year," Popovich said.
The Spurs led by 12 to start the fourth quarter and were up by the same amount when Houston used a 5-0 run to cut the lead to 107-100 with about seven minutes to go.
Rockets: Eric Gordon sat out with groin soreness. ... Dennis Schroder was out with a sore left shoulder. ... Christian Wood missed the game with tightness in his left hamstring. ... Christopher had 20 points off the bench.
HE SAID IT
Popovich on the recent performance of Zach Collins, who had 13 points and eight rebounds Monday after missing the first 53 games of the season with injuries: “His last few games have been his best. He’s got a little bit more bounce in his step."
Spurs: Host Memphis on Wednesday night.
Rockets: Host Sacramento on Wednesday night, the first of consecutive home games against the Kings.