Still the beginning for some, NBA preseason nears its end

A preseason that’s just beginning for some players is already ending for others.

James Harden suited up in Houston for only the second time, with newcomer Christian Wood getting his first — and only — action in a strong debut. The Rockets’ 128-106 victory over San Antonio on Thursday was the finale of their four-game exhibition slate, so the rest of their preparation for the regular season will have to come in practices.

That’s not ideal for a rookie coach such as Stephen Silas, but it isn’t much easier even for a veteran like the Spurs’ Gregg Popovich, whose team was playing its last of three games.

“I would think any coach would say he’s said he was more ready in the past,” Popovich said.

The Rockets looked more ready Thursday, with Wood finishing with 27 points and 10 rebounds in his first action since leaving Detroit for Houston. Harden had 20 points, nine assists, seven rebounds and a pretty between-the-legs pass to his new big man, and Eric Gordon scored 23 points.

It was Wood’s first game action since March but he’s not worried about needing more time to get ready.

“I’m ready right now,” he said.

Before, there was more time between the opening of training camps and the start of the regular season, more opportunities to schedule games. This time, with everything shortened because of the coronavirus pandemic, four tune-up games is all anyone could get, and some opted for only half that.

Popovich said that’s prevented coaches from putting in all the schemes they want, and Silas was more concerned with keeping his players healthy than strategy, anyway. He rested newcomers DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall.

Wall’s old team, the Washington Wizards, got Bradley Beal on the floor for the first time but are still waiting to see Russell Westbrook, who was swapped for Wall.

Preseason play ends Saturday after barely a week of action. Coaches will then have just a couple days from there to finalize rosters before real games begin.

“Fortunately everybody’s in the same boat, so there’s nobody ahead of anybody else,” Popovich said.

Thursday’s games:

ROCKETS 128, SPURS 106

At Houston, Bruno Caboclo chipped in 12 points off the bench as Houston finished 3-1. The Rockets led by as much as 34 points.

DeMar DeRozan scored 21 points for the Spurs, who finished 0-3. Rookie Devin Vassell had 18 points off the bench, Dejounte Murray added 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Patty Mills scored 16 points.

LaMarcus Aldridge shot 3 for 12, missing all five 3-point attempts, and had six points for the Spurs.

WARRIORS 113, KINGS 109

At Sacramento, Stephen Curry scored 16 of his 29 points in the third quarter.

Curry was 6 for 13 from 3-point range and added six assists, while Kelly Oubre Jr. scored 22 points for the Warriors (2-1).

Harrison Barnes scored 19 points for the Kings (2-2). Hassan Whiteside had 12 points and nine rebounds, but De’Aaron Fox endured a 3-for-17 shooting night en route to his eight points and 13 assists. He missed all seven 3-point attempts.

PISTONS 97, WIZARDS 86

At Washington, Josh Jackson scored 17 points off the bench for Detroit.

Jerami Grant scored 15 points and Delon Wright added 13 as the Pistons (2-1) led by as much as 26 points.

Beal scored 10 points in 16 minutes. Troy Brown Jr. led Washington (0-2) with 14 points.

JAZZ 125, CLIPPERS 105

At Salt Lake City, Bojan Bogdanovic and Jordan Clarkson each made five 3-pointers and scored 20 points for the Jazz.

Donovan Mitchell had 15 points and eight assists, while Rudy Gobert and Mike Conley each added 12 points for Utah (3-0).

Paul George scored 16 points and Kawhi Leonard had 13 for the Clippers (0-3).

GRIZZLIES 128, HAWKS 106

At Atlanta, Ja Morant had 18 points and 13 assists for the Grizzlies (3-0). Dillon Brooks led Memphis with 24 points and Jonas Valanciunas had 20 points and 13 rebounds.

Kyle Anderson had 11 points and seven rebounds as Memphis made 19 3-pointers.

De’Andre Hunter scored 22 points for the Hawks (1-2). Trae Young shot 4 for 15 and finished with 15 points and six assists, and Clint Capela had 13 points and nine rebounds.

HORNETS 123, MAGIC 115

At Orlando, Terry Rozier scored 20 points and rookie LaMelo Ball came off the bench to add 18 more.

Devonte’ Graham also had 18 for the Hornets (1-2), while Miles Bridges finished with 17. Charlotte made 18 3-pointers, with Ball and Graham knocking down four apiece.

Nikola Vucevic had 27 points and 12 rebounds for the Magic. Markelle Fultz added 14 points, six rebounds and six assists.

TIMBERWOLVES 129, MAVERICKS 127, OT

At Dallas, Karl-Anthony Towns scored 20 points and long afterward the Timberwolves held on to win when 7-foot-4 center Boban Marjanovic missed a potential winning 3-pointer.

Malik Beasley had 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Timberwolves (1-2), who also got 18 points from Jarrett Culver. No. 1 pick Anthony Edwards came off the bench for 17 points.

Luka Doncic had 20 points, seven assists and five rebounds for the Mavericks, though he missed all six 3-point attempts and went 6 for 18 overall. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 18 points in the first preseason loss for Dallas (2-1).

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