TORONTO (AP) James Harden had his 10th triple-double of the season to help the Houston Rockets run their winning streak to eight games. He still sees a lot of room for improvement.
”One hundred percent,” Harden said after finishing with 40 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds in the Rockets’ 129-122 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Sunday night.
”We’re almost halfway through the season and we’re a fairly new team still and I’ll get better and my turnovers will start dropping just when I get familiar with what different defenses are doing but until then, we’re rolling, guys are happy and we’re making shots.”
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Harden also had 10 of Houston’s 15 turnovers.
”I’ve got the ball in my hands 90 per cent of the time so it’s going to happen,” he said, adding that as long as the team stays under coach Mike D’Antoni’s limit of 15 turnovers it will be OK.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, Harden is the first player with a 40-point triple-double and 10 or more turnovers since turnovers became official in the 1977-78 season.
Harden shot 13 of 26 from the field, finishing with 30-plus points and 10-plus assists for a league-leading 13th time this season. Montrezl Harrell had 28 points in 26 minutes off the bench on 12-of-13 shooting, with Eric Gordon adding 19 more as Houston won consecutive games in Toronto for the first time in franchise history.
Down 99-95 entering the fourth quarter, the Rockets went on a 15-0 run to take an 11-point lead. DeRozan’s run of 12 consecutive points for the Raptors cut into that advantage, but Toronto could get no closer than five points.
Going on that kind of run is nothing new for the Rockets, who feed off each other, according to Trevor Ariza, who had 17 points.
”Once one shot goes in for someone, another one goes in, it brings up the team’s morale and everybody’s getting open looks, everybody’s knocking down shots, it’s fun to play that way,” he said.
After compiling a 19-0 record when taking a lead into the fourth quarter this season, the Raptors have lost two straight in the last 12 minutes. They ultimately lost in overtime in Chicago on Saturday night, and followed that up with Sunday’s loss, a game where they had a 13-point lead at one stage.
”It just sucks in the moment, especially two night sin a row,” DeMar DeRozan said. ”It happened and you just have to lock in.”
DeRozan had 36 points for the Raptors, setting a career high with his 18th 30-plus-point game of the season. DeMarre Carroll tied a career high with 26 points and set a career high with six 3-pointers on 10 attempts.
The late run by Houston to take the game away from Toronto was particularly galling for coach Dwane Casey, who constantly stresses the importance of a consistent approach to defense throughout the entire game.
”They put their heads down, attacked our feet,” he said. ”There was a stretch where we played good basketball for 39 minutes but it is a 48-minute game and we have to extend that.”
Rockets: Houston is 11-2 over its last 12 road games, and 15-6 on the road this season after going 18-23 away from the Toyota Center last season. … The Rockets are 21-3 since losing to the Raptors at home on Nov. 23.
Raptors: After playing eight of the last 10 on the road, Toronto began a four-game homestand Sunday. … Patrick Patterson (left knee) returned to the Raptors’ lineup after missing four straight games.
Despite entering the game with 122 more made 3-pointers than any other NBA team and on a league-record run of 27 games with at least 10 3-pointers made, the Rockets shot only 2 of 17 from beyond the arc in the first half. However, they bounced back in the second half with nine more to extend their NBA-record streak to a 28th consecutive game with at least 10 3-pointers.
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Aaron Sanchez was sitting courtside for Sunday’s game, and received a personalized jersey from the Toronto mascot, the Raptor, who then threw Sanchez-autographed mini basketballs into the crowd.
Rockets: Host Charlotte on Tuesday night, looking for a 12th consecutive home win over the Hornets.
Raptors: Host Boston on Tuesday night, aiming for a third straight home win over the Celtics.