TORONTO — Give Drake, the rapper and Toronto Raptors’ “global ambassador,” credit for being bold.
Give the Toronto Raptors’ terrific perimeter defense credit for making his prediction come true.
Addressing the Air Canada Centre crowd during an early timeout, Drake declared that the Houston Rockets’ impressive run was ending Friday night.
“By the look of it, tonight this win streak is over,” Drake hollered to the delight of the home crowd with the Raptors up nine points late in the first quarter, a lead that swelled to 19.
The Raptors made Drake look like Nostradamus and snapped Houston’s 17-game winning streak, the longest of the NBA season, by beating the Rockets at their own game en route to a 108-105 victory. It’s the longest single-season winning streak the Raptors have ever snapped, per the Elias Sports Bureau.
Toronto torched the Rockets from 3-point range (15-of-38) while consistently chasing Houston off the 3-point line. The Rockets, who launch from long range at historic rates, matched their season low in 3s made with nine. Houston attempted only 27 3s, its second-lowest total of the season.
A desperation jumper by James Harden from the midcourt logo — not far from where Drake spoke into a microphone a couple of hours earlier — caught nothing but air at the buzzer as the Raptors swept the season series between the teams currently atop the respective conference standings.
“I don’t even feel like we lost. Same swag,” Harden said, who scored 40 points on 15-of-22 shooting. “Ain’t nothing changed. One game.”
The loss dropped the Rockets to 51-14, but the Golden State Warriors lost in Portland to drop to 51-15, and Houston holds the tiebreaker. The Raptors (48-17) hold a 2½-game lead over the Boston Celtics in the East.
Houston entered the night averaging 15.5 3s made and 42.4 3s attempted per game, both figures significantly higher than the NBA records set by last season’s Rockets.
Drake takes the mic at halftime to let the Toronto faithful know that he will be dropping an album for the city.
Kyle Lowry, the Raptors’ All-Star point guard, almost made as many 3s as the entire Houston roster during his 30-point performance. Lowry was 7-of-9 from beyond the arc.
DeMar DeRozan, Lowry’s All-Star backcourt partner who finished with 23 points, hit the Raptors’ biggest shot. DeRozan drilled a baseline turnaround over Harden, his former AAU teammate, immediately after a Harden 3-pointer tied the score with a little more than two minutes left.
“They’ve been playing exceptionally well, so for us to come in here and protect home court was big,” said DeRozan, whose Raptors have a seven-game winning streak as they pack for Sunday’s road game at New York.
Kyle Lowry finds space behind the arc and nails a 3-point bucket in the face of Clint Capela.
Chris Paul missed a rare Rockets open 3 from the right corner with 14.5 seconds left that would have given Houston the lead.
“Down the stretch, I’ve got to be better,” said Paul, who had dominated crunch time this season, scoring 56 points on 15-of-22 shooting in 51 clutch minutes before Friday. “We can’t depend on James to do everything and make all those shots that he did. That’s the thing I’m probably more frustrated about.”
The rest of the Rockets were much more focused on their poor start than the finish.
Drake’s taunting prediction came during the Rockets’ worst offensive first quarter of the season. Houston, by far the NBA’s best first-quarter team with an average margin of plus-4.8 points, was doubled up in the first dozen minutes in large part due to a terrific defensive performance by the Raptors.
Houston had its worst first-quarter scoring output (16 points) and field goal percentage (28.6 on 6-of-21 shooting). The Rockets didn’t make any 3-pointers in the first quarter, attempting only five shots from beyond the arc.
“From the jump, they played harder than we did, which is not acceptable for the level of basketball that we’re trying to play,” Rockets forward Trevor Ariza said. “We ended up picking it up, but it’s hard to play from behind. The lesson for us is that we have to come with that mentality from the jump, not when we get down 15 or 20. We have to come with that killer instinct from the jump.”
Added Harden: “Just came in too cool, too cool. Just had it easy. Felt like we could come back, which we did, but just got down 20 points. We can’t allow that to happen against any team.”
The Rockets finished the first half only 1-of-9 on 3s, an alarming statistic for a team that’s shattering records for long-range shooting. Houston was 1-of-12 from long range before Harden, whom DeRozan declared this season’s MVP earlier in the day, hit off-dribble triples on back-to-back possessions late in the third quarter to spark a 14-2 run that brought Houston back within striking distance.
“So be it,” said Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, whose teams wraps up a four-game road trip Sunday in Dallas. “We’ve got to go back and get another streak.”
Source : ESPN