As much as the Rockets enjoyed two earlier wins in San Antonio, and they did love them, this was more significant. They hope it will prove telling, too.

The Rockets would have enjoyed firing 3s and lighting up the scoreboard again, but they needed to win another way. They could not shoot their way past the Spurs. With James Harden out, they probably could not have simply scored and scored until they outscored the Spurs. The Rockets could not ride a wave of early shot-making to a momentum and confidence building lead as they had in San Antonio.

Instead, the Rockets rallied to beat the Spurs, 97-90, on Tuesday the hard way. For the Rockets, at least for a night and especially on this night, the hard way was the better way.

“It shows a lot that we can do other things,” Rockets forward Chandler Parsons said. “When it’s a dogfight and when it’s ugly and when shots aren’t falling, we can still find ways to rebound, get stops and still get wins.

“We know we are capable of doing that. We’re not going to shoot and score the ball at a high rate every single game. To win games like this is just as important for us.”

The win, even with the Spurs playing without Kawai Leonard, Tiago Splitter and Danny Green, and with Manu Ginobili limited to 14 minutes by tightness in his left hamstring, would have been significant no matter how it was secured. With three wins against the Spurs this season, the Rockets won the season series for the first time since 1996-97, when Tim Duncan was a senior at Wake Forest.

But the Rockets were not as interested in that as much as ending their season-long losing streak with the two losses to Memphis, and by winning in just the sort of game they had lost.

“It was very big,” said Dwight Howard, who went scoreless for 22 minutes but finished with 23 points and 16 rebounds. “We had two tough games against Memphis and tonight San Antonio wanted to play the same type of game- slow the game down, make us grind it out and instead of us folding we fought back and got a good win.