(NBA) James Harden defies RaptorsSports | 6 Dec 2019 2:14 pm
No matter what, the Toronto Raptors were determined to double-team James Harden.
The rest of the Houston Rockets made sure that strategy didn’t pay off.
Russell Westbrook had 19 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists, Harden shook off a slow start to score 23 and the Rockets beat the Raptors 119-109 on Thursday night, snapping a three-game road losing streak.
Ben McLemore had a season-high 28 points, P.J. Tucker added 18 points and 11 rebounds, and Danuel House Jr. scored 16 as Houston handed Toronto its second consecutive home loss after a franchise-record nine straight wins to begin the season.
With Harden drawing an extra defender every time he had the ball, his play-making skills were more important than points for once.
Toronto guard Fred VanVleet said the Raptors have “definitely stretched the spectrum” with creative defensive schemes this season.
Harden shot 7 for 11, his fewest attempts of the season, and failed to finish as Houston’s leading scorer for the second time. The only other time was an opening-night loss to Milwaukee in which Harden shot 2 for 13 and scored a season-low 19 points.
McLemore set a career high by making eight 3-pointers on 17 attempts. Tucker matched his season high with five made 3s. Houston finished 22 for 55 from long range.
Harden landed hard after being elbowed in the head on his drive to end the third quarter. He was tended to by trainers before getting to his feet and slowly walking to the locker room, but returned 2 1/2 minutes into the final period.
Pascal Siakam scored 24 points, VanVleet had 20 and Kyle Lowry 19 as the Raptors lost back-to-back regular-season home games for the first time since losing to Oklahoma City and Charlotte last March 22 and 24.
Lowry shot 2 for 18 in Tuesday’s overtime loss to Miami, his first game after missing 11 because of a broken left thumb.
The five-time All-Star fared better against the Rockets, making five of eight attempts, including three of five from long range. He shot 6 for 6 at the free throw line and led his team with eight assists.
Back-to-back baskets by Serge Ibaka and Norman Powell brought Toronto to 101-100 with 8:39 to play, but Harden and Tucker scored six points apiece as the Rockets pulled away with a 12-2 run over the next two minutes.
Harden was held in check early by Toronto’s zone defense. Houston’s star guard didn’t attempt his first shot until a fast-break layup with 4:07 left in the first quarter. It was his only field goal attempt of the opening period.-AP