James Harden scores 19 in Houston Rockets win over Toronto Raptors

James Harden scored 35 points – including 19 in the fourth quarter – as the Houston Rockets gave up a 22-point lead before rallying late to beat the Toronto Raptors.

This extended their winning streak to six games.

Gerald Green added 18 points for the Rockets. Who have won both meetings between the teams this season. Eric Gordon and Austin Rivers added 13 points each for the Rockets. While Clint Capela had nine points and 15 rebounds and Chris Paul had five points, 10 assists and six rebounds.

Kawhi Leonard led Toronto with 26 points. Pascal Siakam had 17 points and 10 rebounds. While Danny Green had 14 points and Serge Ibaka had 10 points and 15 rebounds.

The Raptors overcame a 22-point deficit in the second quarter to lead by two points entering the fourth quarter.

The Rockets, held to 14 points in the third quarter. And surged to a 10-point lead when Gordon hit a three-pointer with 9:03 to play in the fourth after a Raptors’ turnover.

Harden, playing with four fouls, hit a three-pointer with 5:48 remaining and Houston led by 14. Ibaka made two free throws with 4:25 to cut the lead to nine.

Harden’s jump shot with 2:54 remaining extended the lead to 13 and ensured there was no way back for Toronto.

Nick Nurse was quick to talk about the physicality of the Rockets. He said: “They were really riding us. But for me, yeah. I would have certainly liked to win the game and have a couple of guys play a little better. But its really good to get used to this stuff because we all know that’s what it looks like in six weeks.”

Leonard was back for Tuesday’s much-anticipated battle with Harden and one of the league’s elite teams. But the first half was disastrous for the Raptors. Who coughed up 19 points on turnovers and couldn’t buy a three-pointer, making just three of 13 shots from long range.

The Rockets broke the game open with a 17-2 second-quarter run, and there was a smattering of boos from the capacity Scotiabank Arena crowd when the Raptors trudged off the court at halftime.

They roared out of the break with a 15-2 run of their own. Outscoring the Rockets 34-14 in the third quarter — Siakam’s 15 points alone in the frame topped Houston’s — and led 71-69 with one quarter to play.

The Rockets shot the lights out in the fourth, and when Harden drilled a three with just under six minutes to play, the long bomb was Houston’s seventh three-pointer of the quarter and gave the visitors a 14-point lead. Two free throws from Ibaka sliced Houston’s lead to nine points. But that was as close as Toronto would come. When Harden converted a three-point play with just under a minute to play, hundreds of disgruntled Raptors fans already had their backs turned, heading for the exits.

The Raptors have the schedule on their side the rest of the way. Tuesday’s game was one of three games remaining in the regular season against teams that have a winning record. The fewest of any team in the league. They face Oklahoma City in a home-and-home series later this month.

The Raptors’ next six games are against opponents with sub .500 records, beginning Friday when they play in New Orleans. They’ll play in Miami on Sunday and in Cleveland on Monday, before returning home to host the Los Angeles Lakers on March 14.

Peace,

Burke.

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