Rockets–Spurs rivalry

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Rockets–Spurs rivalry
  • Houston Rockets
  • San Antonio Spurs
First meetingNovember 27, 1976
Rockets 125, Spurs 116
Latest meetingMarch 5, 2023
Spurs 110, Rockets 142
Next meetingOctober 27, 2023
Meetings total229[1]
All-time series127–106 (SAS)
Regular season series117–94 (SAS)
Postseason results12–10 (HOU)
Longest win streakSAS W11
Current win streakHOU W2
Postseason history

The Rockets–Spurs rivalry is an NBA rivalry between the Houston Rockets and the San Antonio Spurs. It is considered one of the most bitter rivalries in the league due to both teams being in the same division, contested games, and close proximity. It is also known as the I-10 Rivalry since San Antonio and Houston lie on Interstate 10, it is one of the three National Basketball Association rivalries between teams from Texas, the others featuring Houston and San Antonio versus the Dallas Mavericks.


The rivalry began in 1976 when the Spurs moved from the American Basketball Association along with the Denver Nuggets, New York Nets, and Indiana Pacers. The Rockets and Spurs competed for the division title, with the Rockets winning it first in 1977 and the Spurs in 1978 and 1979. In 1980, they met in the playoffs for the first time as the Rockets led by Moses Malone and Calvin Murphy beat the Spurs led by George Gervin and James Silas 2–1. The rivalry grew intense as both teams moved from the East to the West. They met again in 1981, this time in the second round. The Spurs had home-court advantage, and were heavily favored, winning the Midwest Division Title and the Rockets only 40–42. The Rockets and Spurs fought to the bitter end before the Rockets held on to win Game 7 capped by Murphy's 42 points. The Rockets would advance to the Finals in a losing cause to the Boston Celtics. The rivalry sparkled in 1995 when the sixth-seeded Rockets led by Hakeem Olajuwon beat the top-seeded Spurs led by MVP David Robinson.

Even after Olajuwon was traded to the Toronto Raptors in 2001, he recalled the fond memories he had of playing against his old San Antonio rival.

"I think when I walk on to that court (at the Alamodome), maybe then it might hit me, all the games I played against San Antonio and the great rivalry we had,...I'm pretty sure David will be very surprised to see me wearing a new uniform. I'm sure it's going to be strange, but at the same time it will be very special. The memories, the competition, the rivalry. I am very much looking forward to it."

— Olajuwon, [2]

After years of dormancy, the rivalry once again began to show signs of life following the 2023 draft lottery when prospective first overall pick Victor Wembanyama appeared to celebrate the Rockets' failure to obtain the first pick of the draft.[3] Wembanyama was also visibly delighted upon the Spurs' receiving of the first pick because of the team's popularity in his home country of France.[4]

Notable games[edit]

1981 NBA Playoffs[edit]

In a classic Game 7, the 40–42 Rockets looked to upset the 52–30 Spurs to advance to the Western Conference Finals. Capped by Calvin Murphy's 42 points, the Rockets defeated the Spurs to advance to the Conference Finals and defeated the likewise 40–42 Kansas City Kings, and moved on to the 1981 NBA Finals where they were defeated by the Celtics. The Spurs waited another 18 years to see a Finals berth and Title.

1995 Playoffs[edit]

In 1995, the Rockets looked to win their second straight NBA championship. Despite a slow start, the 6th-seeded Rockets (47–35) managed to get through their first opponent, the 3rd-seeded Utah Jazz (60–22) 3–2, and the 2nd-seeded Phoenix Suns (59–23) 4–3. The Rockets would encounter the top seeded Spurs waiting (62–20) for them in the Conference Finals. The Spurs had swept their first round opponent, the Denver Nuggets (41–41) before defeating the Los Angeles Lakers (48–34) in 6 games.

Olajuwon displayed perhaps the most impressive moments of his career when the Rockets faced the San Antonio Spurs in the Conference Finals. Recently crowned league MVP Robinson was outplayed by Olajuwon, 35–24 PPG. When asked later what a team could do to "solve" Olajuwon, Robinson told LIFE magazine: "Hakeem? You don't solve Hakeem."[5] The Rockets won every road game that series and beat the Spurs 4–2. The Rockets swept the Orlando Magic in the 1995 NBA Finals 4–0, and secured their second Championship. Thus far, the Rockets had won a division title, conference title and Championship before their rivals.

2004 Rockets comeback[edit]

It took place on December 9, 2004, after a long fought game in which the Spurs had mostly led (up by 10 points under a minute left) and the Rockets crowd beginning to boo their own team; Tracy McGrady scored 13 points in 35 seconds, including a 3 with 1.7 seconds left to give the Rockets an 81–80 comeback win. The game ended a 7-game losing streak against the Spurs for Houston.[6]

2008 Spurs comeback[edit]

In 2008, the teams would meet for the first match on November 14 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio. The Spurs began the 2008 season with their worst record in franchise history (2–4), as a result of an injury to Manu Ginóbili at the 2008 Summer Olympics, and a sprained ankle to Tony Parker early in the season.[7] This was the first regular season game in which the newly acquired Ron Artest along with Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming would face San Antonio. The Rockets led most of the game, going up by as many as 14 with 7 minutes left.[8] Despite missing more than 40 points in scoring from their two injured guards, two time MVP Tim Duncan (22 pts) and rookie George Hill (17 pts) led the Spurs' comeback. They finally took the lead (76–75) with 59 seconds left on a hook shot by Duncan.[8] He blocked a layup that would have given the Rockets the lead with less than 2 seconds left. After the Spurs made 1 of 2 free throws, the Rockets got one last chance to win, but Artest missed a 3 as time expired, giving San Antonio a 77–75 victory.[8]

2017 Playoffs[edit]

The Spurs entered the 2017 NBA playoffs as the second seeded Western Conference team after securing a 61–21 record, their second straight 60+ win season and 20th consecutive postseason appearance. The Spurs dispatched their first round opponent, the Memphis Grizzlies, in six games.

The Rockets entered the playoffs as the third seeded Western Conference team after securing a 55–27 record, a significant improvement over their 41–41 eighth-place finish the previous season. They were led by the 2016-2017 Coach of the Year, Mike D'Antoni. Under D'Antoni, the Rockets set the NBA record for most 3-pointers made in a single season with 1,181.[9] In the first round, the Rockets defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games.

The Spurs and Rockets met in the Western Conference Semifinals.[10] The match-up was the first between the two teams in the playoffs since the 1995 Western Conference Finals.[11] In Game 1, the Rockets defeated the Spurs 126–99. In Game 2 of the series, the Spurs returned the favor with a 121–96 victory. However, the Spurs lost starting point guard Tony Parker indefinitely with a ruptured left quadriceps tendon.[12] The teams split games 3 (Spurs) and 4 (Rockets), evening the series at 2 games apiece. In Game 5 of the series, all-star Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard suffered an injury to his right ankle in the third quarter, which would eventually result in him sitting out for the closing portions of the game. The game was tightly contest throughout, with both teams failing to capitalize on opportunities to take the lead at the end of regulation. In the overtime period, Manu Ginóbili blocked James Harden's three-point attempt in the final seconds to secure the 110–107 victory for the Spurs.[13] The Spurs would close out the series in a 114–75 Game 6 win. The 75 points were the lowest point total of the season for the Rockets. The Rockets, known throughout the season for their prolific offense, were held to less than 100 points three times in the series after being held below 100 only five times in the regular season.[14]


  1. ^ "Houston Rockets vs. San Antonio Spurs All-Time Head-to-Head Record in the NBA". Retrieved 8 May 2018.
  2. ^ Zicarelli, Frank (December 12, 2001). "OLAJUWON'S RETURN HOME A DREAM TRIP". The Toronto Sun.
  3. ^ "Spurs Fiesta 5: San Antonio Celebrating Victor Wembanyama Lottery Win". 18 May 2023.
  4. ^ "Victor Wembanyama confirms Spurs have "special" connection to France". 23 May 2023.
  5. ^ Hakeem Olajuwon, (Accessed January 3, 2007.)
  6. ^ McGrady's late 3-pointer beats clock, Spurs, China Daily. October 12, 2004.
  7. ^ "Duncan scores 22 points, leads the Spurs to another home victory". November 15, 2008.
  8. ^ a b c Monroe, Mike (November 14, 2008). "Late surge propels Spurs past Rockets". San Antonio Express News.
  9. ^ Mike D’Antoni Named NBA Coach of the Year. National Basketball Association. Retrieved on August 2, 2017.
  10. ^ 2017 NBA Western Conference Semifinals: Rockets vs. Spurs Basketball Reference. Retrieved on August 2, 2017.
  11. ^ Houston Rockets vs. San Antonio Spurs All-Time Head-to-Head Record in the NBA. Land of Retrieved on August 2, 2017.
  12. ^ Spurs' Tony Parker has ruptured quadriceps tendon. ESPN: May 5, 2017. Retrieved on August 2, 2017.
  13. ^ Manu Ginobili Blocks Harden to Give Spurs OT Victory and Series Lead. The New York Times: May 10, 2017. Retrieved on August 2, 2017.
  14. ^ Spurs rout James Harden, Rockets 114–75 to win series. ESPN: May 11, 2017. Retrieved on August 2, 2017.