The Houston Rockets navigated February with an unblemished record, and as a regular-season showdown with the Toronto Raptors approached on Friday night, James Harden and company were riding a 17-game winning streak. However, the road team fell into a 19-point first-half hole in Toronto, and despite a wild comeback, the Rockets fell short, and the Raptors were able to escape with a streak-stopping victory by a final score of 108-105.
Houston’s first defeat since Jan. 26 (in New Orleans) doubled as arguably the NBA League Pass game of the year, as college basketball removed ESPN’s typical Friday night showcase, and the Rockets-Raptors match-up was relegated to only local coverage. With that said, this particular game was reminiscent of a similar East vs. West battle between the Atlanta Hawks and Golden State Warriors in 2015, with two of the league’s best teams throwing haymakers to the very end.
The Raptors used 54 percent shooting and 30 combined points from Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan to take a 15-point lead into halftime, and for much of the first half, it felt like a runaway could be in progress. After the break, though, Harden erupted, scoring 26 of his 40 points in the second half and attempting to carry the Rockets back into the mix.