Tiago Splitter was the first to hear Popovich's scorn, but the reigning coach of the year saved most of his wrath for Tim Duncan and Tony Parker. MVP, All-Star, reserve or sideline reporter, no one is protected from Popovich's ire.
His tirade led to the Spurs' fourth straight win.
Duncan, Parker and Manu Ginobili combined to score 84 points, and San Antonio snapped the Rockets' five-game winning streak with a 122-116 victory on Friday night.
Parker had 31 points and 10 assists, Duncan had 30 points and five rebounds, and Ginobili had a season-high 23 points for San Antonio (23-8).
"They were unbelievable," Ginobili said of Duncan and Parker. "I had a nice stretch early in the third quarter, but those guys have been great all season. I kind of joined in on the scoring. The main thing is that we beat another great team that has been rolling."
The Spurs beat Toronto on Wednesday to snap the Raptors' five-game winning streak.
It was the first time the Spurs had two players score 30 points in a game since Feb. 2, 2009, when Duncan and Ginobili both had 32.
Those points were needed against the high-scoring Rockets, who lead the NBA in scoring at 105.3 points per game.
While the Spurs' "Big Three" were able to match the Rockets' production, it was the team's defense that was key.
After allowing Houston to shoot 55 percent through three quarters, the Spurs clamped down in the fourth. San Antonio had seven steals in the period, and Houston shot 10 for 23 from the field.
Ginobili and Patty Mills made back-to-back 3s to push the Spurs' lead to 104-97. Mills also forced offensive fouls on Lin and Aldrich to help San Antonio go on a 7-0 run.
"We got a group out there that did an excellent job of both sprinting back in transition, showing a crowd in full-court shell and getting guys off the 3-point line," Popovich said. "But, other than that period, we were pretty poor in that respect, and that's Houston's game. That's why they're kicking everybody's butt and scoring all these points."
The Spurs turned up their defensive intensity late in the third, with Splitter earning applause from Popovich after teaming with Stephen Jackson to trap Harden and force a jump ball.
Harden was whistled for his fifth foul on the ensuing jump ball, forcing Houston coach Kevin McHale to sit his leading scorer.
"It changed the entire game," Harden said of the call. "It gave me five fouls. I had to come out, and then I had to play hesitant. It changed the entire game."
The Spurs stretched their lead to 19 points in the fourth quarter before the Rockets rallied, but were unable to get closer than the final score.
"I think it was the start of the game," McHale said. "We had to fight back. I was proud of the guys and how they battled back."
San Antonio set season highs with 41 points in the first quarter and 69 in the first half but Houston kept pace with 63 before halftime -- the most by a Spurs opponent this season.
The Spurs shot 67 percent in building a 21-8 lead in the opening 6 minutes.
Cole Aldrich's running hook gave the Rockets their first lead at 65-64 with 1:05 remaining in the half. Ginobili made a 3 and a layup to stake the Spurs to a 69-65 lead at halftime.
Danny Green was 5 for 7 on 3-pointers and finished with 17 points for San Antonio.
Rockets P Patrick Patterson (bruised right foot) missed his seventh straight game. ... Parker is the only player in the NBA averaging at least 18 points, 7 assists, and 3 rebounds while shooting over 50 percent from the field, 40 percent on 3s, and 80 percent on free throws. ... San Antonio has five winning streaks of at least 3 games this season. ... While the Spurs rank first in total assists at 25.8 per game, Parker is the only player who has more than 10 in a game. He has done it six times.
Carmelo Anthony and Phil Jackson have not discussed the Knicks' coaching search since their exit meetings last month.
The Hornets' Spencer Hawes has a sprained MCL in his right knee, an MRI revealed Thursday, and is likely out for the rest of the first-round series against the Miami Heat.
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