After a strong first half against the Houston Rockets, the Toronto Raptors lost their composure down the stretch and ultimately lost 113-107. The Raptors led by as much as 18 points but the offensive onslaught delivered by James Harden and friends was just too much to contain. This was a tough one to drop for Toronto, bringing their franchise record home winning streak to an end at 12 games.
The Rockets pick up their first victory in Toronto since Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming were still a thing. The loss was especially frustrating as the Rockets chipped away at the lead by getting to the line and firing off the long ball in transition. The Rockets took advantage of what looked like a lazy Toronto defence by getting to the line 37 times in the contest. Harden led all scorers with 40 points and 14 assists. The Raptors were led by Luis Scola, who dropped 21 points scoring for the first time in double figures since January 30th.
The Raptors will get their first shot at home redemption this Tuesday when the 18-45 Brooklyn Nets roll into town.
Cage’s Report Card:
This was definitely a tale of two halves for the Raptors. The Rockets are a team that will let their opposition put points on the board at the expense of dictating the games tempo – and the Raptors fell into their trap.
The first half, Toronto put on an exemplary display of team basketball, leading to 61 first half points. The crowd was in the game, the ball was moving and it seemed as if the Raptors were capable of pulling away early. However, the second half came and the Raptors’ shooting went out the window. Toronto finished the game shooting just 48% and turned over the ball and uncharacteristic 15 times. Those turnovers led to possessions where the Raptors defence wasn’t able to get set up, and they paid the price for that in the end.. DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry were both held to sub-20 point performances in the loss.
The Raptors had one job. Stop James Harden. The failed at that, then let Corey Brewer and Trevor Ariza get in on the action. Brewer is one of those perennial Raptors killers, so it’s really no surprise that he came in on off the bench and dropped five huge three pointers to help his team back in the game. With all the attention focused on Harden, Brewer and Ariza were able to roam the perimeter and get open looks on a scrambling Toronto defence. Ariza hit the biggest three-pointer of the game putting the Rockets up a point with about 4 minutes to go in the game. That was the Rockets first lead since the first quarter.
Toronto gave up 36 points in the closing frame to the Rockets, which is absolutely unacceptable for elite teams. Hopefully this was just an off-night, but it really makes you wonder how much impact a player like DeMarre Carroll could’ve had on this game if healthy. With that being said, Dwane Casey and company have some work to do when it comes to late game execution.
The Raptors actually beat the Rockets on the glass 47-42, however they were out-rebounded on the offensive glass by 1. Although the Raptors won the rebounding battle on the stat sheet, it’s largely in part to the Rockets’ first half struggles from beyond the arc. A solid second half saw a decrease in available defensive rebounds. Dwight Howard was showing shades of his former self as he led all rebounders with 11, while also putting home 21 points of his own.
Game Ball: James Harden
It’s no surprise who the game ball goes to this evening. Harden lit up the Raptors for 40 points to go along with 14 assists and 6 rebounds. He single-handedly willed his team back into this game with his attack the rim mentality. Harden’s penetration created high quality looks for a number of his teammates. When Harden is in attack mode he’s incredibly tough to stop. This was a performance that reminds people exactly why he was in the race for the league MVP award just a season ago.