Published On: Wed, Nov 15th, 2017

Raptors overpower Rockets with record second quarter

HOUSTON—With seven minutes to go, the Houston Rockets had shaved a 20-point deficit to six, James Harden was having one of those nights and there had to be some collective tightness creeping into the Toronto Raptors.

They had already lost games at San Antonio and Golden State when they couldn’t finish off good opponents on the road, and that sickly feeling must have been coming back.

But wilt they did not. They got stops and big baskets — an OG Anunoby three-pointer, a Delon Wright layup and a DeMar DeRozan dunk off a Kyle Lowry steal — and the game was back under control.

That seven-point run, over the course of less than a minute, was the exclamation mark on a fun and entertaining 129-113 win at the Toyota Center on Tuesday night.

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“(It’s) just knowing that even though we are up 10 or 12, it’s not a big enough cushion against a team like this,” DeRozan said. “Understand and get smart looks and smart stops, and that is what we did the last six or seven minutes of the game.”

The Raptors didn’t try to outshoot the most prolific three-point shooting team in the league, but they did, going 14-for-30 from three-point range to Houston’s 12-for-39.

They didn’t try to get into a track meet, but they did, finishing with 15 fast-break points to just four for Houston.

They were poised any time the Rockets made a run, finished the final five minutes strongly and beat a good team on the road.

“Consistency in this league is a hard thing to grab,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said.

“That’s what we have to reach for and grab for each and every night. If we could bottle tonight — the energy, the toughness, the togetherness that we had tonight — it’s special, and it goes through the whole organization. We have to be together, tied together — good, bad or indifferent — and make sure we get things done.”

C.J. Miles hit six three-pointers and finished with 19 points, Anunoby had 16 points in his first start and DeRozan led Toronto with 27.

Lowry put up a double-double with 19 points and 10 assists as the Raptors pulled away after leading by only six with six minutes left.

Harden wound up with 38 points, half of them on free throws, for the Rockets.

Anunoby was asked to be the primary defender on Harden and did as good a job as anyone, and contributed a trio of three-pointers to the cause.

In the last week, the 20-year-old has been asked to guard a range of players from Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday of the New Orleans Pelicans to Harden and Boston’s Jaylen Brown, and has been solid each time out.

“You’re not going to stop a young man like Harden, but I thought he made him work for every inch of the court he tried to get to, and used his foot speed and length to make it difficult,” Casey said of Anunoby.

“(Harden) still scored. Still, he made him work and that’s what we need out of that position.”

Toronto’s first half was one of the most offensively explosive ones in franchise history.

By piling up 45 points in a franchise-record second quarter, Toronto jumped out to a 76-64 halftime advantage. The 76 points were a season best by 10, and just three off the all-time mark of 79, set in New Jersey in 1997.

Meanwhile, if there was much anticipation about the impact P.J. Tucker would have playing his first game against his former Raptors teammates, it dissipated quickly. Tucker played only 16 minutes, with no points and five rebounds, before he was ejected after picking up two lightning-quick technical fouls midway through the third quarter.

But as good as Toronto was in amassing a lead as big as 20 points, they went through enough bad stretches in the third quarter to let the Rockets close to within nine heading into the fourth.

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Raptors overpower Rockets with record second quarter