China's Yao Ming had 28 points and 13 rebounds while Bonzi Wells collected 14 points and 15 rebounds off the bench to help the Rockets drop the previously unbeaten Spurs 89-81 on Tuesday night in a battle of Western Conference powerhouses.
"If you can't get up playing on a high against the world champions, then you shouldn't be playing this game," said Wells after the Spurs fell to 3-1.
The Rockets (4-1) suffered their first setback of the season, 107-98 at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night. However, they rebounded with an impressive effort against the Spurs in the back end of the Texas two-step.
"The Texas triangle is tough," Wells added. "After losing a tough game last night, we showed our character. And to defeat the world champions at home was big for us."
Mike James scored 13 points, while Shane Battier and Tracy McGrady added 12 points apiece for the Rockets, who limited the Spurs to 37 per cent field goal shooting and dominated the boards 55-28.
"Those guys do it all," said McGrady of the Spurs. "For us to execute, defend and rebound - if we can do that on a consistent basis, we're going to be tough to beat."
Argentine Manu Ginobili led the Spurs with 23 points, Frenchman Tony Parker followed with 21, but Tim Duncan struggled to finish with 14 points on five-of-15 shooting while pulling down 10 rebounds.
Trailing by as many as 15 points early in the final quarter, Ginobili's two free throws drew the Spurs to within 79-72 with just under three minutes remaining. However, Yao hit back-to back turnaround jumpers to open up an 11-point cushion.
After Parker's three-pointer sliced the deficit to 83-75, Yao made two free throws and Battier drilled a triple from the right wing with 1:05 left to lock up the victory.
Elsewhere in the NBA:
New Orleans Hornets 118, LA Lakers 104
Sharpshooter Peja Stojakovic hit a franchise record 10 3-pointers en route to 36 points, and Chris Paul handed out a team mark 21 assists to go along with 19 points as the Hornets ran their record to 4-0.
Kobe Bryant had 28 points for the Lakers (2-2), who beat division leaders Phoenix and Utah in their last two outings.
Sacramento Kings 104, Seattle SuperSonics 98
Kevin Martin scored 31 points, and Francisco Garcia hit the go ahead 3-pointer with 29 seconds remaining, as the Kings erased a 20-point deficit to give new coach Reggie Theus his first victory in his home debut at Arco Arena.
Wally Szczerbiak scored 32 points and rookie phenom Kevin Durant tallied 27 points for the Sonics, who dropped to 0-4 under new coach P.J. Carlesimo.
Cleveland Cavaliers 108, Golden State Warriors 104
LeBron James collected 24 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists, and Daniel Gibson hit the game-clinching three-pointer with 19 seconds remaining, helping the visiting Cavaliers edge the winless Warriors.
Baron Davis led the Warriors (0-4) with 29 points and 10 assists.
Phoenix Suns 115, Charlotte Bobcats 83
Brazilian Leandro Barbosa, Raja Bell and Shawn Marion scored 16 points apiece to lead eight players in double figures as the visiting Suns handed the Bobcats their first loss of the season.
Rookie Jared Dudley led the Bobcats (2-1) with 16 points, and Raymond Felton added 12 points before leaving the game with a left knee injury late in the third quarter.
Milwaukee Bucks 112, Toronto Raptors 85
Desmond Mason hit all 10 field goals and finished with 21 points as the host Bucks shot a blistering 60 per cent from the floor to rout the Raptors.
Juan Dixon led the Raptors with 20 points, but All-Star forward Chris Bosh was held to one point.
New Jersey Nets 87, Atlanta Hawks 82
Richard Jefferson scored 25 points and Antoine Wright had 15, including a key layup with 16 seconds left, helping the Nets (3-1) clip the visiting Hawks.
Josh Smith and Josh Childress led the Hawks (1-2) with 18 points apiece.
LA Clippers 97, Chicago Bulls 91
Cuttino Mobley scored 33 points on 13-of-17 shooting, while Corey Maggette had 18 points, 10 rebounds and the go-ahead 3-pointer with just over two minutes left, helping the visiting Clippers (3-0) keep the Bulls winless.
Luol Deng paced the Bulls (0-4) with 22 points.
New York Knicks 119, Denver Nuggets 112
Jamal Crawford scored 25 points, and Eddy Curry added nine of his 24 in the final period as the Knicks overcame a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat the visiting Nuggets.
Zach Randolph collected 21 points and 17 rebounds while Stephon Marbury chipped in with 21 points and nine assists for the Knicks (2-1), who outscored the Nuggets 37-20 in the final frame.
Allen Iverson led the Nuggets (2-2) with 32 points and Carmelo Anthony had 24.
Orlando Magic 111, Minnesota Timberwolves 103
Dwight Howard had 28 points and 16 rebounds, powering the visiting Magic past the winless Timberwolves. Al Jefferson led the Timberwolves (0-3) with 25 points and 10 rebounds.