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Rockets dominate, slip, recover and bumble their way to win over Raptors

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A great effort with another weak ending.

Houston Rockets v New York Knicks
A good game for the new Rocket.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

One could be forgiven for thinking this game would be a blowout. One would probably assume the wide margin would be in favor of the Toronto Raptors, the team with the best record in the East, starting a (rather) well-rested Kawhi Leonard.

That’s not how the game began, however, with the Rockets jumping all over the Raptors and leading by 33-20 after the first quarter. The Rockets were attacking, sharing the ball, and playing great defense. The Raptors seemed a bit befuddled by it all. They’d come here to overplay James Harden, to keep him under 40. The Rockets responded with Eric Gordon, Austin Rivers and PJ Tucker doing good work on the offensive end, instead.

The Raptors came back with a furious second quarter, with quondam Rockets nemesis Danny Green displaying his full abilities: defense, three point shooting, whining and falling down suspiciously. It was an overall team effort for Toronto though, with the Eastern Conference leaders notching 41 points, the most given up by the Rockets in a quarter this season. The half ended with the Rockets ahead 70-61.

The second half brought a continuing Toronto surge in the third quarter, with the margin narrowing to as little as four. The Rockets countered and at one point had the lead at 18. If you know these Rockets, though, you’ll know they didn’t extend the lead to 25 and put the game on ice. No, indeed. While a combination of strong drives (and James Harden unleashing a lethal floater) and some long range shooting built the lead, settling for threes, and missing wide open ones allowed the Raptors to once again climb in the game.

The fourth quarter was both better and worse. The Rockets withstood another Raptors run, and built what would normally be a safe lead with under two minutes left. Where PJ Tucker was the goat in the narrow win over the Knicks, Eric Gordon, otherwise having a fine game, decided to see how close the Raptors could make it. With every Raptor hitting three point shots, making three within the span of 50 seconds from the 1:07 mark, they made it uncomfortably close.

On the final Rockets offensive play, Eric Gordon, believing himself to be the target of an intentional foul, flung up a three point attempt, rather than running more clock. No foul was called, and Toronto was behind only two, with plenty of time to shoot.

The call was for Kawhi Leonard to take the final shot, and attempt a three for a win. Leonard switched onto James Harden. Despite a push off, Harden stayed close for an excellent contest. Kawhi may be many things, but Harden’s equal at shooting step back threes he is not.

Leonard airballed the potentially winning shot for the Raptors and the Rockets escaped with a win in a contest that never should have been that close.

Once again the Rockets show themselves to be one of the least opponent driven teams in the NBA. Their victory tonight over the team with the best record in the NBA was much like theirs over the woeful Knicks.

Highlights: Kenneth Faried looked like his younger self tonight, flying around the court, rebounding, dunking passes from Harden, and generally being a good all-around player.

Poll

Kenneth Faried?

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  • 59%
    Return of the Manimal!
    (290 votes)
  • 8%
    Polite clapping.
    (42 votes)
  • 23%
    Another great waiver wire addition.
    (114 votes)
  • 8%
    This question has nothing to do with The Chosen Doncic.
    (41 votes)
487 votes total Vote Now