The Toronto Raptors continue to pile up impressive victories over playoff contenders.
The Houston Rockets could be the next victim if they can’t shake off a mini-slump from 3-point range.
They’ll meet for the first time this season Saturday night in Houston.
Toronto (37-17) has won 10 of 12 and is riding a four-game winning streak – all against playoff contenders in the Clippers, San Antonio, Washington and Atlanta.
The Raptors still trail the first-place Hawks by 5 1/2 games after winning in Atlanta 105-80 on Friday, though they’re responsible for one-fourth of the Hawks’ 12 losses and two of their four home defeats.
Lou Williams scored 26 while hitting a career-high 7 3-pointers against his former team. Toronto improved to 11-0 when he scores 22 or more and he has scored 25-plus four times in his last nine games after recording as many such performances in his previous 45 contests. Williams has averaged 19.0 points in his last three visits to Houston.
"He made some tough shots," coach Dwane Casey told the team’s official website. "It’s what he does and when he’s on, it’s usually good for us offensively and tonight he was. He’s a tough shot maker and that’s what he does."
The Rockets (36-18) lost for the third time in four games with Friday’s 111-100 setback at Dallas, going 12 of 37 from 3-point range after hitting 9 of 45 in a 110-95 loss to the Clippers on Feb. 11.
They fell to 10-14 when shooting worse than 35.0 percent from deep, though they were 9 of 23 in the second half after going 3 for 14 in the first 24 minutes.
"We were kind of a little rusty in the first half from the break," said James Harden, who was 3 of 5 from beyond the arc and scored 15 of his 26 after halftime. "We needed a half to kind of get the rust off a little bit. The second half, we started playing a little bit better."
Harden accounted for six of Houston’s 21 turnovers. The Rockets finished with 20 assists, though they had been 6-3 when posting more turnovers than assists. They’ve been one of the NBA’s most turnover-prone clubs with 16.9 per game.
Though the Raptors have dropped seven straight in Houston, their defense figures to present multiple challenges after holding their last four opponents to 90.5 points per game and 23.6 percent 3-point shooting. They limited the Hawks, second in the NBA in 3-point percentage, to an 8-for-38 mark from deep and forced 23 turnovers.
"We were scrambling," said DeMar DeRozan, who had 21 points, eight rebounds and three steals. "We tried not to let them get anything easy. We didn’t want to let them get going, get a rhythm. As long as we do that, we can live with the outcome."
Meanwhile, Houston has struggled defensively, giving up 111.8 points on 49.1 percent shooting over its last five games after allowing 98.8 and 44.0 previously.
K.J. McDaniels and Pablo Prigioni are expected to be in uniform for the Rockets after being acquired Thursday. McDaniels averaged 9.2 points for Philadelphia while Prigioni had 4.7 points and 2.4 assists per game for the Knicks.
These teams have split the last 24 meetings.