The Toronto Raptors opened up their preseason with a 134-129 win against the Houston Rockets in Tokyo. What did we take away from the game?
At long last, Toronto Raptors preseason is back. After four long months, the Raptors faced off against the Houston Rockets in the first series of the Japan Games. Their first-ever preseason game as the reigning NBA champions, the Raptors would be without Kyle Lowry – who had just signed a new one-year extension 24 hours prior – and Marc Gasol.
As expected in preseason, the defense was at something of a premium. The Rockets were featuring in their third preseason game, while this would be the Toronto Raptors first. At times, that rustiness showed.
The first half was an offensive bombardment from both teams, and the Rockets reigned down from three once more – making 52-percent of their threes in the first half alone. The pairing of Russell Westbrook and James Harden looked like a strong fit early on, and Harden had 27 points on 9-of-11 shooting in the first two quarters, dissecting a weary Raptors defense at will.
Pascal Siakam went toe-to-toe with Harden, however, and the Raptors spread their scoring around evenly, with Siakam, Serge Ibaka, and Norman Powell all hitting double-digits before the break. Ibaka in particular, showed off a soft touch, knocking down a turnaround jumper and an open three-pointer from the top of the key in quick succession.
Despite falling behind 85-73 at the break, the Toronto Raptors forced their way back into the game in the second half, and the Rockets offensive juggernaut ultimately slowed down once Harden and Westbrook sat. Even then, the Raptors still had to come back from a double-digit deficit and took the lead late in the game and held on until the end.
While at times, it was a shaky performance, there are plenty of positives to take away from the game. Basketball is back, and the Toronto Raptors are in the win column, but what did we learn from the win against the Houston Rockets?