Raptors 108 Rockets 105
TORONTO — Dwane Casey credited Kyle Lowry for getting the Raptors offence started on Friday night against the hottest team in the NBA.
Lowry had 13 first-quarter points while going 3 for 3 from beyond the arc and finished with a team-high 30 as Toronto snapped the Houston Rockets’ 17-game win streak with a 108-105 victory at Air Canada Centre.
Toronto jumped out to an early 32-16 lead behind Lowry.
“He shot the ball well. We needed our three-point shooting to pick up,” said Casey. “I think once other guys saw him shoot the ball, they got rolling, shot it with conviction.”
Lowry went 7 for 9 from three-point range overall and had six assists while DeMar DeRozan added 23 points and seven rebounds. Jonas Valanciunas chipped in 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Eric Gordon hit a three-pointer with 7.9 seconds remaining pulling Houston to within one, 106-105, but Valanciunas responded by draining a pair of free throws as the Raptors hung on for the win.
The victory stretches Toronto’s win streak to a season-high seven games. The Raptors (48-17) have won 14-of-15 and now have a 2.5 game lead over the idle Boston Celtics atop the Eastern Conference standings.
“(Houston has) been playing exceptionally well of late so for us to come in here and protect home court was big,” said DeRozan.
“It’s always great when you get to compete against a great team in the NBA and come out with the victory. Tonight was fun, especially on our home court.”
James Harden had a game-high 40 points, four assists and two rebounds for the Rockets (51-14). Chris Paul and Gordon each added 14 points.
“We had a lot of opportunities we just didn’t convert on them,” said Harden. “No matter who you play, you can’t get down 20 points on the road and expect it not to be challenging to get back.”
Houston outscored the Raptors 32-25 in the third quarter, cutting Toronto’s lead to 83-75.
Harden led the way with 14 third-quarter points while going 2 for 3 from beyond the arc. Gordon added six points off the bench as Houston shot 61 per cent from the field in the quarter.
Lowry had 16 points and DeRozan 14 as Toronto took a 58-43 lead into the break. The duo combined to go 6 for 9 from three-point range in the half. Malcolm Miller added seven first-half points in six minutes of action off the bench for Toronto.
With his 14 first-half points, DeRozan reached 13,000 points for his NBA career. He became the eighth player since 2009-10 to reach the milestone. He’s also the third player from the 2009 draft to hit the mark.
Harden led the Rockets with 14 points and four rebounds through two quarters. Clint Capela added eight points and seven rebounds at the break.
The Raptors held the Rockets to a season-worst 11 per cent from three-point range in the first half.
“It was our game plan to keep them inside the three,” said Lowry. “We know they’re going to shoot ‘em and get ‘em up, but we held them inside the three. We can’t take everything away from them so we tried to take away one of their strengths.”
Notes: Raptors G Delon Wright missed his first game due to a toe injury suffered in Wednesday’s win in Detroit. … Toronto F OG Anunoby sat out his fifth game with an ankle sprain. … The Raptors begin a three-game road trip beginning on Sunday in New York against the Knicks.