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Old 12-25-13, 12:21 PM
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Rockets-Spurs Preview
Associated Press Last Updated: Tue, Dec 24 6:12 ET

James Harden once again was tough to stop for the San Antonio Spurs last month.

The Spurs, however, may not have to worry about the Houston Rockets' top scorer in Wednesday night's home meeting between the Southwest Division's top teams.

Houston (18-11) had dropped seven straight at San Antonio before a 112-106 victory Nov. 30. Harden was the catalyst, scoring a game-high 31 points with seven rebounds and six assists.

The shooting guard will be a game-time decision for this Christmas matchup after missing the last two games with a sprained left ankle. He is averaging 30.5 points over his last four against the Spurs (22-6), who are well aware that Harden ranks third in the NBA with 8.6 foul shots per game.

"It's not an easy task," San Antonio guard Danny Green said. "We'll try to do as best we can of trying to play good straight-up defense without giving him easy ones at the free-throw line."

San Antonio will get its first look of the season at Jeremy Lin, who missed the first meeting due to a sprained right knee.

Lin also missed four games in a row with back spasms before returning in Monday's 111-104 home loss to Dallas. He had 20 points, five turnovers and two assists.

"I felt like every pass I threw was deflected," Lin said. "I just got to keep playing and keep trying to make the passes and do better."

Lin faces a major challenge in his point guard matchup with Tony Parker, who had 26 points and eight assists in Monday's 112-99 home win over Toronto.

"We won that game because of Tony Parker's aggressiveness," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "His juice; his aggression all night long. And we made some 3s in the fourth quarter. Those are the two reasons we won the game."

San Antonio made 6 of 7 from 3-point range in the fourth quarter after going 3 of 16 in the first 36 minutes. Green made all four of his long-range attempts in the final period in his second straight game off the bench after he started the first 26.

Marco Belinelli, second in the league in 3-point shooting at 51.1 percent, is now starting. He has unpleasant memories of his Christmas game last season with Chicago, which lost 120-97 at home to the Rockets.

"Last year when I was in Chicago, I played against Houston and we lost by 25, I think," he said. "So this year I'm going to try and be more aggressive and we will see tomorrow."

Houston ranks third in the NBA with 50.0 points per game in the paint behind Dwight Howard, who is averaging 18.7 points and leads the league with 9.6 free-throw attempts per game. The Rockets have attempted an NBA-high 770 3-pointers, ranking third by making 272.

"Last time we played them they were the number one in the league in points in the paint and number one shooting behind the arc," Green said. "I don't know if they still are but we know how effective they are and how good they can be."

The Rockets placed all five starters in double figures in points in last month's meeting, but Patrick Beverley will miss this one with a broken hand that will sideline him for at least a month.
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