Raptors blasted by Rockets
HOUSTON — The Houston Rockets took care of Toronto, then looked ahead to a long, emotional Wednesday.
James Harden scored 24 points and matched a career high with 12 assists to lead Houston over the Raptors 117-101 on Tuesday night. Patrick Patterson added 22 points for the Rockets, who have won four in a row. Omer Asik had 13 points and 18 rebounds, his seventh double-double of the season.
Now comes the hard part.
The Rockets planned to fly to Minneapolis immediately after the game to attend Wednesday’s memorial service for Sasha McHale, the 23-year-old daughter of coach Kevin McHale. Sasha McHale died on Saturday from complications of lupus.
The team will then fly from Minneapolis to Oklahoma City to face the Thunder on Wednesday night.
“I think we’re strong enough to get through it,” Harden said. “We’ve got to be there for Coach. He’s going through a lot right now. Our biggest thing is just supporting him, and making sure we comfort him.”
It was going to be an emotional day for Harden anyway. The reigning Sixth Man of the Year will return to Oklahoma City for the first time since he was traded to Houston on Oct. 27.
“It’ll be good to see some faces, some old teammates and coaches,” Harden said. “I look forward to every game I play. It’s another game.”
Andrea Bargnani scored 21 points and Terrence Ross added a career-high 19 for the Raptors, who have lost five straight. The Rockets scored 27 points off 16 Toronto turnovers.
“Houston outran us down the floor and our turnovers killed us,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “Houston shot the heck out of the ball, but we caused some of that by our turnovers.”
Jeremy Lin had 16 points and 10 assists for Houston. Lin went 7 for 9 from the field, his best shooting game of the season. He was 6 for 12 from the field in Friday night’s win over New York, and interim coach Kelvin Sampson thinks Lin may have finally found his touch after struggling early this season.
“This is the best game Jeremy has played, no question,” Sampson said. “I thought he got his swagger back against New York. He’s been working hard with his shooting.”
Lin swished a 3-pointer and finished a fast break with a jumper from the wing in the opening 6 minutes.
Bargnani kept Toronto close for a while, starting 7 for 9 from the field and hitting three 3-pointers in the first half. The Rockets shot 51 per cent (26 of 51) in the half and led 61-51 at the break, even though their minds were on McHale’s tragedy.
“Right now, it’s an emotional time for the whole team,” Lin said. “We’re missing our leader. Right now, we’re just focused on coming out and playing the way we’re supposed to play. Hopefully, when he is watching, he can be proud of us.”
Chandler Parsons, who scored 18 points, got a text message from McHale after Tuesday’s game that said, “Thank you.”
“So you can tell he is down,” Parsons said. “But just watching us get these wins is helping him and I think that should give us more incentive to keep playing together, keep playing hard and being a product of him.”
The Raptors started a modest 5 for 12 from the field in the second half, but still couldn’t keep up. Patterson converted a three-point play after a dunk, then sank another 3-pointer for an 89-64 Rockets lead and a new individual season-high point total.
Houston hit a season-high 14 3-pointers in Friday’s 131-103 win over New York and had 12 through three quarters on Tuesday night. The Rockets shot 53 per cent (44 of 83) and finished 13 for 26 from 3-point range against Toronto. Houston’s 30 assists matched a season high.
“We’re finding each other better, we’re making the extra pass better,” Sampson said. “We’re playing as a team, guys are taking good shots.”
But Sampson was at a loss trying to explain how he can prepare Houston for Wednesday’s game against the defending Western Conference champions. The Rockets are cutting it close, scheduled to arrive only 3 1/2 hours before tipoff.
“I don’t pretend to know what to do there,” Sampson said. “As long as we get there by 7, we’ll be OK.”
NOTES: Toronto point guard Kyle Lowry, who played for Houston from 2009-12, got supportive applause when he was introduced before the game. He finished with seven points on 3-for-10 shooting. ... The Raptors have lost six straight games in Houston. ... Houston’s 38 third-quarter points were a season high. ... The Rockets recognized Sasha McHale’s death with a moment of silence before the announcement of the starting lineups.