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Sport Rockets overcome Raptors’ Harden-obsessed defense

13:30  06 december  2019
13:30  06 december  2019 Source:   houstonchronicle.com

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Friday, December 6, 2019 Rockets overcome Raptors ’ Harden - obsessed defense | Helpful Problem TORONTO — This time, Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni was going to

Rockets overcome Raptors ’ Harden - obsessed defense - Продолжительность: 10:13 Helpful Problem 1 просмотр.

TORONTO — This time, Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni was going to get his challenge. There would be no need for officials to count to 30 to see if he challenged in time, no gray area, no doubt.

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The Rockets had handled the Raptors’ defense, pouring in 3-pointers left available by a new level of obsession with taking the ball out of James Harden’s hands. They had led by 16. They held a six-point lead with 74 seconds remaining.

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They needed one more stop, and to get it, they had to win a challenge two nights after they so memorably and controversially were not awarded one.

BOX SCORE: ROCKETS 119, RAPTORS 109

D’Antoni knew he would win this one and was right, with the ruling helping seal a 119-109 win over the Toronto Raptors on Thursday. The trick, a game after he was not granted a challenge in San Antonio on Harden’s disallowed dunk, was to make sure officials looked at the replay.

“You saw me. I was waving that finger,” D’Antoni said. “I was going crazy. I almost got off the ground. I was a helicopter. I was going after it this time.”

Austin Rivers had been called for a three-shot foul that would have given Raptors guard Fred Van Vleet a chance to trim the Rockets’ lead to three. After a review, the call was overturned, changed to an offensive foul on Van Vleet. When Russell Westbrook finished a drive and then added two free throws, the Rockets sealed the win.

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This is the defensive scheme Toronto used to force Houston into their worst offensive half all year. That said, Toronto’s defense forced Houston into small ball. Capela only played 11 minutes in the second half, and the Rockets never looked at Nene again after a disastrous four-minute stretch in the

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“I guaranteed him he wouldn’t lose it,” Rivers said. “If I fouled him, I would say, “Don’t do it.’ I told Mike, “I promise; I didn’t foul him. Challenge.”

That was one of many stops the Rockets made down the stretch, with Harden helping hold Raptors star Pascal Siakam to six second-half points.

The Rockets, however, had to conquer a defense not unlike the halfcourt traps of Harden that the Rockets have seen for eight consecutive games, but one that took it to new extremes.

“I didn’t know what they were going to do; triangle-and-two, box-and-one, whatever,” D’Antoni said. “But other guys stepped up, and James is more than happy to just draw the double team. Other than Russ (Westbrook) and James, we took 40 3s and made 19 of them. That’s what you got to do — wide-open 3s and just knock them down.”

The Raptors had OG Anunoby or Siakam on Harden, with Van Vleet running at him as a second defender whenever he approached midcourt with the ball, playing a zone behind the trap.

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They took away the lane. They limited Harden to just three shots in the first half, 11 in the game, the fewest he had attempted in any game this season. But the Rockets worked the ball to open corner 3s and happily fired away.

“We’ve seen so many different defenses throughout the course of the year,” said Harden, who had 23 points. “Tonight, was the first time seeing this defense, but guys did an unbelievable job of moving their bodies and being ready to shoot.”

Ben McLemore had a season-high 28 points, making a career-high eight 3-pointers on 17 attempts. P.J. Tucker had 18 points, making 5 of 10 3s. Danuel House Jr. added 16 points, all in the first half before the chills and weakness from playing sick took over.

Yet, while the Rockets built their success on McLemore, Rivers and Tucker — Russell Westbrook had a triple-double with 19 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists, but made just 7 of 27 shots with eight turnovers — the Raptors stuck with the plan. The Rockets stuck with their faith in role players.

“I knew I was going to get some shots up,” McLemore said. “Not the (amount of) shots I took tonight. Just staying ready and reading the defense, the concept of what Toronto was doing in stopping James and being ready to make shots.

Harden tops 50 again, Rockets beat Magic by 23

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VanVleet believes the Raptors defense played adequate, but could not keep up with the explosive Rockets offense. Houston stepped up working around the traps

The Toronto Raptors overcame so much. And there they were, with a minute left in Game 7, down by two points, on a fast break. In all his years of NCAA Tournament runs and playoff battles, Stevens has never seen so many different defensive coverages.

“I got to give credit to myself for just staying focused and continue to shoot my shots. My teammates did a great job of keeping my confidence high.”

That meant sticking with the plan even as the Raptors made their run. They expected that eventually the Raptors would try something else, but never did.

“After guys start hitting a few shots, usually coaches change their defensive scheme,” House said. “I guess they felt like we were going to cool down. But when you’re giving guys — NBA pros — open looks like that … guys are going to knock it down all night.”

Jonathan.Feigen@chron.com

Twitter: @Jonathan_Feigen

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