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Rockets rock Raptors behind tough defense

Combine this win with losses by Portland and OKC, and we now have a three-way tie for third in the west.

NBA: Houston Rockets at Toronto Raptors Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Rockets appear to really be rounding into shape as we head down the home stretch of the regular season. They played a complete game, especially on the defensive end, as they held the Toronto Raptors to 41 percent shooting from the field and forced 13 turnovers, which led to a 107-95 Houston victory.

James Harden spearheaded the offensive attack with 35 points, and though he struggled for a big part of the night and shot just 12-30 overall, he turned on the gas in the fourth quarter when it mattered most. The Beard scored 17 of his points in the final frame to help break open a close game and seal the deal on the sixth consecutive Houston win.

The Rockets almost let another one get away, however, after jumping out to a big 55-37 halftime lead. The first half featured perhaps the best defensive ball we’ve witnessed Houston play all year, and they had a balanced offensive attack with three players in double-digit scoring by halftime, but as been the case time and again throughout the season, they couldn’t hold the advantage.

The Rockets layed an egg after halftime, giving up 34 points in the third period and scoring just 14 themselves, and they actually went into the fourth period with 71-69 deficit. They cranked the intensity back up in the fourth, however, and Harden’s offensive burst closed the show.

In addition to The Beard, the Rockets got 18 points from Gerald Green on 4 three-pointers, 13 points from Austin Rivers, who played an extremely effective game, and 13 from Eric Gordon. They also got 5 points, 6 rebounds, 10 assists, and 2 steals from Chris Paul, who was efficiently running the offense and whipping passes about despite some ugly 1-10 shooting, and they got 9 points and 15 boards from Clint Capela.

Nene also looked good off the bench tonight, to the tune of 6 points, 5 boards and a +16 in 14 minutes.

The Raptors were led by Kawhi Leonard, who finished with 26 points, and they also got 17 points and 10 boards from Pascal Siakam, 14 points from Danny Green, and 10 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 blocked shots from Serge Ibaka, who was an absolute monster on the defensive end for Toronto.

The Rockets now move to 39-25 on the season, and with the losses tonight by the Portland Trail Blazers and the Oklahoma City Thunder are now tied with both of those teams for the number three seed in the Western Conference.

Houston is now off until Friday, when they’ll return to action at the Toyota Center against the Philadelphia 76ers. The Rockets just beat the Raptors and Celtics back-to-back, and they’ll look to down another of the east’s best as they round into shape for a playoff run.