TORONTO – The Rockets really are better when they can convince officials to check the replay.
ON TEXAS SPORTS NATION: Takeaways from Rockets’ win over Raptors
They had to be better in many ways to beat the Toronto Raptors, 119-109, mostly by defeating a defense that went to new extremes to take James Harden out of the offense. But they might have clinched the win with the coaches’ challenge they controversially were not granted on Tuesday in San Antonio.
The Rockets had found enough offense by moving the ball, usually to corner 3s with Ben McLemore providing much of the scoring punch the Raptors took away from Harden. McLemore had a season-high 28 points while Harden scored 23 on just 11 shots. P.J. Tucker added 18 while Russell Westbrook had a triple double with 19 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists, while making just 7 of 27 shots.
The Rockets, however, had to close out the win on the defensive end and with a well-timed review. Harden, who had a season-high five steals, drew a charge on Pascal Siakam. Austin Rivers drew an offensive foul on Fred Van Vleet with 1:14 remaining and the Rockets leading by six.
The call was initially called a three-shot foul on Rivers, but after video review in a coaches’ challenge by Mike D’Antoni, was overturned.
Westbrook finished a drive and then hit a pair of free throws to ice the win.
Harden took just two shots in the first half, and even when he put up shots in the second half, it was usually off broken plays or fast breaks.
With constant double teams starting at midcourt, he still had put up 23 points with 3 ½ minutes left. But the Rockets led by eight, and had led by as much as 16, because of the way they moved the ball and found shooters.
He found plenty, before the game was won on the other end.
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