The Houston Rockets got even with the Toronto Raptors and closed their Asian tour. After losing the first game against the reigning NBA champions, James Harden and the rest of the guys responded very well and posted a 118-111 win over the Canadian team.
In front of more than 30,000 spectators at the Saitama Super Arena, the Rockets had to work hard to post a victory. The Raptors have played pretty good having in mind that their leading star Kyle Lowry didn’t appear tonight. Also, Marc Gasol came back on the floor for the first time since the FIBA World Cup finals.
Everything started well for Mike D’Antoni’s team, who easily obtained a double-digit lead, 22-9 following Austin Rivers’ floater jump shot. The champions bounced back a little bit until the end of the period, but Houston was still seven points ahead, 30-23.
The first comeback Toronto made was in the second part of the second quarter. With 3:20 left until the end, Norman Powell made a hook shot to give his team a lead, 50-48. From that moment on, Nick Nurse’s crew took over the wheel and was running things on the court. The first halftime ended with Toronto’s 63-55 lead, and the champs extended that to 79-66.
However, Houston responded, and already at the end of the third quarter, the two sides were level, 90-90. After a close opening of the final period, the Rockets managed to create 8 points of difference, and pull away to 104-96. But the stubborn Raptors didn’t want to go down, and the game entered a dramatic finish. We saw multiple free throws on both sides, but it seems that a key moment that decided the match was Ben McLemore’s three with 26.3 seconds to go.
James Harden and Russell Westbrook scored 22 points each, and that was a team-high. The Beard added 9 assists and had three steals, while Russ had 4 assists and also three steals. What needs to be said is the fact that the two were poor outside the three-point line, combining 4 of 19. Meanwhile, Eric Gordon didn’t have those problems, hitting 4 threes in 8 attempts. PJ Tucker posted 10 boards with 9 buckets.
The Rockets had 64 attempts for three points and made just 17.
Meanwhile, Norman Powell had an excellent game for the Raptors, with 22 points, shooting 7 of 11 from the field, and 5 of 7 behind the arc. Fred VanVleet had a double-double with 10 points and assists each, while Pascal Siakam contributed with 16 buckets.
“I really like the way Pascal, Norm, and Fred looked. OG is still trying to get back on track a little bit, but he made some plays defensively tonight,” said Nurse at the press conference.
The Raptors are now heading back home, the same as the Rockets, who had a turbulent tour in Asia. Their GM Daryl Morey posted a status on Twitter in which he sides with the protesters in Hong Kong, which made the Chinese authorities pretty mad.
Today’s game between the Nets and the Lakers is played with numerous limitations, including the cancelation of all the press conferences and even Adam Silver’s address to the media.
Morey’s tweet increased the tensions even back home, where President Trump accused Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich that they didn’t back up the league firm enough like they attack him and his policy.
The Chinese authorities expressed their displeasure with the moves Rockets GM made, and that eventually put the team in an awkward situation.
Up next, they are meeting with the San Antonio Spurs at home next Wednesday, while the Raptors play versus the Bulls on Friday.