TORONTO, ONT – No matter what, the Toronto Raptors were determined to double-team James Harden.
The rest of the Houston Rockets made sure that strategy didn’t pay off.
Russell Westbrook had 19 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists, Harden shook off a slow start to score 23 and the Rockets beat the Raptors 119-109 on Thursday night, snapping a three-game road losing streak.
Ben McLemore had a season-high 28 points, P.J. Tucker added 18 points and 11 rebounds, and Danuel House Jr. scored 16 as Houston handed Toronto its second consecutive home loss after a franchise-record nine straight wins to begin the season.
With Harden drawing an extra defender every time he had the ball, his play-making skills were more important than points for once.
“James, to his credit, didn’t force anything,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “He said, ‘OK, double me and my teammates will score tonight,' and they did it.”
Toronto guard Fred VanVleet said the Raptors have “definitely stretched the spectrum” with creative defensive schemes this season.
“This was one of those things that didn't go our way,” VanVleet said. “If we would have scored 11 more points, we'd be geniuses and the defense was the best thing in the world and we'd be Harden-stoppers.”
Harden shot 7 for 11, his fewest attempts of the season, and failed to finish as Houston’s leading scorer for the second time. The only other time was an opening-night loss to Milwaukee in which Harden shot 2 for 13 and scored a season-low 19 points.
“We’ve seen so many different defenses throughout the course of the year,” Harden said. “Tonight was our first time seeing this defense. Guys did an unbelievable job of moving their bodies and being ready to shoot.”
McLemore set a career high by making eight 3-pointers on 17 attempts. Tucker matched his season high with five made 3s. Houston finished 22 for 55 from long range.
“When you’re giving guys, NBA pros, open looks like that, it’s tough,” House said. “Especially the amount of time that we had, guys are going to shoot. They were just knocking them down all night.”
Harden landed hard after being elbowed in the head on his drive to end the third quarter. He was tended to by trainers before getting to his feet and slowly walking to the locker room, but returned 2 1/2 minutes into the final period.
“He got an elbow off his temple,” D’Antoni said. “They checked for a concussion but obviously he was fine.”
Pascal Siakam scored 24 points, VanVleet had 20 and Kyle Lowry 19 as the Raptors lost back-to-back regular-season home games for the first time since losing to Oklahoma City and Charlotte last March 22 and 24.
Lowry shot 2 for 18 in Tuesday’s overtime loss to Miami, his first game after missing 11 because of a broken left thumb.
The five-time All-Star fared better against the Rockets, making five of eight attempts, including three of five from long range. He shot 6 for 6 at the free throw line and led his team with eight assists.
Back-to-back baskets by Serge Ibaka and Norman Powell brought Toronto to 101-100 with 8:39 to play, but Harden and Tucker scored six points apiece as the Rockets pulled away with a 12-2 run over the next two minutes.
After following up his season-high 60-point performance in Saturday’s win over Atlanta with a 50-point effort in Tuesday’s overtime loss at San Antonio, Harden was held in check early by Toronto’s zone defense. Houston’s star guard didn’t attempt his first shot until a fast-break layup with 4:07 left in the first quarter. It was his only field goal attempt of the opening period.
Rockets: Clint Capela led Houston with 13 rebounds. … Westbrook shot 7 for 27, going 0 for 6 from 3-point range. … Houston has won three straight over Toronto.
Raptors: Lowry, who went 0 for 11 from 3-point range in Tuesday’s loss to Miami, made a pull-up 3 for his first shot of the game Thursday. … The Raptors lost consecutive games for the first time this season. … Toronto recalled C Dewan Hernandez from the G-League, but he did not play.
Westbrook posted his second straight triple-double and fifth this season. He has six career triple-doubles against Toronto, more than any other opponent.
OUT OF GAS
House returned after missing two games because of illness and said he was still tired after playing almost 27 minutes.
“I’m weak,” he said. “I’m really fatigued. I can’t wait to get on the plane and go to sleep.”
Rockets: Host the Phoenix Suns on Saturday.
Raptors: At the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday.
More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports