The weird streak the Toronto Raptors have going at home against the Houston Rockets continues following a terrific performance by DeMar DeRozan to save the day and deliver the 99-96 win, rising above abilities and production of James Harden.
DeRozan didn’t just score 42 points to win his individual duel against Harden (31 points). It wasn’t just establishing himself as only the third Raptors players ever to have multiple 40-point games (along with Vince Carter and Chris Bosh). It was his ability in the second half and especially on the final plays to deliver the win that should keep them at fourth in the East the rest of the way.
After Trevor Ariza knocked down a wide open three from the corner that gave the Rockets a 96-95 lead with 1:44 remaining, DeRozan took over. First it was a spin move with impressive hangtime against two players contesting the shot that put the Raptors back up again, taking a 97-96. With 21 seconds left in the game, DeRozan hit a tough jumper over James Harden to seal the win.
When Harden and DeRozan face each other on the court their friendship and longstanding relationship is always mentioned. That part probably pushed DeRozan forward in this duel as well. It’s definitely cool because we’ve been playing against each other since we were kids. That’s one of my close friends in the league to this day. I’m close to his family, he’s close to my family, so it’s always cool. Now we can cherish this 20 years from now, 30 years from now, just joking, you know, have fun together.
DeRozan also grabbed 11 rebounds, shooting 14-of-27 from the field and 12-of-17 from the line. Harden wasn’t as accurate, hitting just 9-of-22 from the field in a game that he took a lot upon himself seeing as Dwight Howard didn’t make the trip North of the border. The most important thing, not only the points, was his defense. I thought his defense and rebounding was as solid as anything else, which made it an all-around excellent game for him.
The Rockets haven’t won in Toronto since 2007, and saw their four-game winning streak end. With both the Blazers and the Grizzlies winning, Houston fall back to third in the West (0.5 games behind Memphis) and are still 1.5 games ahead of Portland. Howard is going to remain on a restricted minute schedule, which means missing out on games from time to time.
Besides DeRozan, it was a good game from Jonas Valanciunas with 15 points, 9 rebounds and 5 blocks. Lou Williams scored 13 off the bench and Greivis Vasquez stunk up the place with 1-of-10 from the field. The Rockets were pleased with the dunking abilities of rookie Clint Capela, scoring his first NBA points with four thunderous dunks.