Houston trailed by 15 at halftime and were down by 17 with less than five minutes to play in the third quarter. Over those five weeks, they fared well against the likes of Cleveland, San Antonio, Boston and Oklahoma City, among others.
The guard had 13 first-quarter points while going three for three from beyond the arc. Harden led Houston with 38 points, while DeRozan led Toronto with 27 points. From there, however, the Rockets began to find their rhythm.
A desperation jumper by James Harden from the midcourt logo - not far from where Drake spoke into a microphone a couple of hours earlier - caught nothing but air at the buzzer as the Raptors swept the season series between the teams now atop the respective conference standings. "By the looks of it, tonight this win streak is over", Drake correctly called. Houston's ability to throw multiple scoring options at other teams makes them tough to defend.
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By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, the contest was up in the air. Lowry was doing everything he could to keep the margin from closing. An improved three-point shot from DeRozan, the evolution of guard Fred VanVleet and the off-season acquisition of sharpshooter C.J. Miles have helped turn the Raptors into a respectable long-range threat. Houston proceeded to send Jonas Valanciunas to the free throw line.
Barkley, long known as an advocate of the city of Toronto and all that it has to offer in terms of food and night life, then made a bold prediction about a change in the playoff script National Basketball Association fans have become accustomed to.
On their final possession, D'Antoni drew up a play for Harden who had a chance to tie the game at the buzzer. The Raptors beat the Rockets 129-113 in November, Houston's biggest home loss of the season. James Harden finished with 40 points and four assists. For a team that lives and dies by the three, the Rockets were going to need to figure out how to get more open shots.
And ESPN's Max Kellerman put the explanation mark on the statement, stating that Houston's loss to Toronto had nothing to do with the Raptors talent and everything to do with the Rockets' schedule - even stating that the game wouldn't mean anything to Houston.
"I'm happy to be home", he said.