Harden scores 35, Rockets beat Raptors

TORONTO (AP) — James Harden and the Houston Rockets watched a big lead evaporate, yet managed to keep their winning streak intact.

Harden scored 19 of his 35 points in the final quarter, Gerald Green had 11 of his 18 in the fourth and the Rockets beat the Toronto Raptors 107-95 on Tuesday night.

Eric Gordon and Austin Rivers each scored 13 points as the Rockets won their sixth straight, matching a season high.

Kawhi Leonard scored 26 points and Serge Ibaka had 10 points and 15 rebounds for Toronto. Pascal Siakam had 17 points, and Danny Green 14 as the Raptors had their seven-game home winning streak snapped.

Harden, the NBA’s leading scorer, made 12 of 30 shots, including three of nine from long range. He was perfect at the foul line, hitting all eight of his attempts.

Houston’s Chris Paul said his MVP teammates makes scoring look easy. It isn’t, Paul cautioned.

“If it was that easy, everybody would do it,” Paul said.

Harden, who eclipsed 18,000 career points on Tuesday, has scored 28 or more points in 39 straight games. It’s the second-longest streak in NBA history. Wilt Chamberlain (71 games) holds the record.

Houston Rockets guard James Harden (L) controls the ball as Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard defends

The Raptors overcame a 22-point second quarter deficit to reclaim the lead in the third, but couldn’t hold on in the fourth. The Rockets turned it on, connecting on seven of their first eight shot from three-point range. Houston made 15 of 34 attempts from beyond the arc.

“We locked back in,” Harden said. “Our second unit did an unbelievable job of getting stops and creating opportunities on offence, and that was the game.”

Harden made six of seven field goals in the fourth, including a pair of three-pointers. He also had five foul shots in the quarter.

“I was playing well, but I wasn’t shooting it well,” Harden said of his performance through three quarters. “I had a lot of opportunities at the rim that I didn’t convert on, so I wanted to make sure I converted on those, because that was the game right there.”

The Rockets outscored the Raptors 23-7 on fast break points and turned 13 Toronto turnovers into 26 points. Houston had scored 17 points off turnovers before allowing any of their own.

“We’ve just got to do better,” Siakam said. “Not enough energy.”

Teammates Kyle Lowry echoed Siakam’s comments on the heels of Toronto’s second straight defeat. The Raptors lost in overtime at Detroit last Sunday. Toronto is 3-3 since the All-Star break.

“We’ve got to play harder as a group and continue to get better,” Lowry said.

Harden missed seven of 10 shot attempts in the first, but scored nine points as the Rockets led 23-19 after one.

Houston opened the second with a 19-4 run to take a 42-23 lead at 7:28. Green and Rivers each scored seven in the quarter and Houston led 55-37 at halftime. For the Raptors, it was their lowest-scoring half of the season.