For the first time this season, the Toronto Raptors have lost two consecutive games, both of which came at Scotiabank Arena.
While the Raptors focused on limiting league scoring leader James Harden to just 23 points, the Houston Rockets supporting cast came up in a big way to lead the team to a 119-109 win over the Toronto Raptors.
Ben McLemore led all scorers with 28 points while Russell Westbrook (19 points), P.J. Tucker (18 points) and Danuel House (16 points) shouldered the offensive load for Houston.
For Toronto, Pascal Siakam led the way with 24 points while Fred VanVleet (20 points) and Kyle Lowry (19 points) had some big moments in the second half. Ultimately, it wasn't enough as the Raptors rallied from trailing by as many as 16 points in the game to make things interesting before coming up short.
With that in mind, here are your takeaways from the game...
Both the Rockets and Raptors entered the night as the league's top-five 3-point shooting teams.
It was clear that perimeter shooting would be a key in this one.
Led by eight triples from McLemore, the Rockets went 22-for-55 (40.0%) from beyond the arc while the Raptors went just 12-for-39 (30.8%) from deep. That's a 30-point advantage that Houston had on the perimeter.
The Raptors failed to connect on numerous quality looks and while Kyle Lowry (3-for-5) and Fred VanVleet (3-for-7) combined to shoot 50.0% from deep, Pascal Siakam went 2-for-8 and OG Anunoby shot 1-for-7, with both failing to connect on open shots.
Toronto's at its best when hitting 3s and once it regains its rhythm from deep, it'll be able to snap this recent skid.
Efforts to contain Harden
James Harden, the league's back-to-back reigning scoring champ entered the night averaging 39.5 points per game - the league-best by a wide margin. Conversely, the Raptors entered the night with an impressive track record of keeping prolific players in check.
Something had to give, as just of the two trends could hold true.
Early on, it became evident that the Raptors would be all in on containing the back-to-back reigning scoring champ.
By keying in on Harden defensively from the jump, Toronto was able to limit his production as a scorer. It wasn't even a matter of making him take difficult shots, it was keeping him out of plays to where he could not get to spots that he could attempt shots.
The result? Harden scored a season-low six points in the first half on 2-for-3 shooting.
The second half was a bit of a different story.
Harden wasted no efforts as he almost surgically picked his spots in the third and fourth quarters to assert himself offensively. He would end up with 23 points (on 7-for-11 shooting), seven rebounds, three assists and five steals.
The 11 shot attempts were a season-low and it was just the second time that he wasn't the Rockets leading scorer, which leads us to…
The other guys
Ok, Russell Westbrook isn't exactly to be grouped with the Rockets' supporting cast, but outside of Harden, the team scored 96 points and was 19-for-50 (38.0%) from beyond the arc.. This was a direct product of the Raptors' defensive approach, which almost dared the rest of the team to beat them.
They definitely stepped up.
Westbrook, who is coming off of an All-NBA season, recorded a triple-double with 19 points (on 7-for-27 shooting), 13 rebounds and 11 assists. But that's to be expected.
Ben McLemore knocked down open look after open look to finish with a season-high 28 points. Former Raptor P.J. Tucker did exactly what he's paid to do, finishing with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Danuel House scored all 16 of his points int he first half and Clint Capela scored just six points but more importantly, pulled down 13 rebounds (nine offensive).
As a product of the Raptors' defensive scheme, they were at a rebounding disadvantage that led to 20 offensive rebounds and 24 second-chance points. Rebounding has been a point of contention for Toronto this year and while the numbers were a result of the defence scrambling, it's an issue that the team must rectify going forward.
No Raptor was a double-figure rebounder as Siakam led the way with nine boards.
Lowry finds his stride
It wasn't necessarily all bad for Toronto in the loss.
After a "terrible" 2-for-18 performance in a loss to the Heat, Kyle Lowry looked much more like himself from a shooting standpoint as he finished the game with 19 points (on 5-for-8 shooting), eight assists and five rebounds.
Lowry credited his struggles against Miami to a lack of rhythm, which is understandable given the fact that he had missed the last 11 games and participated in just one practice before getting back on the floor.
It's a process to get back accustomed to game speed.
Toronto's All-Star guard looked much more comfortable as he asserted himself, drew fouls to get to the line and got his teammates involved. While it came in a losing effort, Lowry finding his legs now will benefit the Raptors moving forward as they prepare for yet another tough test…
The Raptors head to Lowry's hometown of Philadelphia to take on the 76ers for the second time this season.
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