January 26, 2019 / 4:11 AM / 7 months ago

Harden (35 points) keeps streak alive as Rockets stop Raptors

EditorsNote: Corrects to Eric Gordon in third graf (free throws); some other small tweaks

James Harden extended his streak of consecutive 30-point games to 22 but had plenty of help as the Houston Rockets claimed a 121-119, wire-to-wire victory over the visiting Toronto Raptors.

Harden continued his recent struggles from behind the 3-point line, missing 11 of 13 attempts. However, he relied on a variety of floaters and a 15-for-15 performance from the free-throw line to produce a game-high 35 points. Harden added seven assists as the Rockets, with all five starters scoring in double figures, claimed back-to-back victories for the first time this month.

Things got dicey at the end. Eric Gordon gave Houston a 119-108 lead with two free throws at the 1:19 mark, then Toronto closed with a dramatic 11-2 run. Kawhi Leonard (32 points, seven rebounds, five assists) misfired on a 3-pointer at the buzzer, and the Rockets held on to win.

Kenneth Faried, making his home debut for the Rockets, posted an energetic double-double (21 points, 14 rebounds). Gordon added 24 points, PJ Tucker 18 and Austin Rivers 13 for Houston.

Toronto dropped back-to-back games for the first time since mid-December. Pascal Siakam totaled 22 points and 12 rebounds for the Raptors, while Danny Green added 22 points.

From the start, it was clear that Harden wouldn’t have to do it alone. Gordon and Tucker tallied eight points apiece in the first quarter, with Tucker connecting on a pair of threes. Gordon played assertively all over, closing the scoring in the opening frame with a thunderous dunk.

When Gordon hit a three at the 9:41 mark of the second, Houston led 40-22. The Rockets stretched their advantage to 22 points roughly 90 seconds later before Toronto made a run. Reserve guard Fred VanVleet ignited the rally with consecutive three-point plays, and Houston went cold after Rivers converted a floater for a 52-32 lead with 6:54 left in the half.

Leonard and Green worked in tandem dragging the Raptors back into contention, with Green catching fire from the perimeter while Leonard scored in a variety of ways. Toronto closed within six on a Green three at the 2:20 mark, and when Leonard followed three Harden free throws with a twisting, contorting three against solid defense, Toronto trailed 70-61 at the break.

—Field Level Media

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