Including playoffs, the Rockets are 77-22 when Paul plays.
Coach Nick Nurse came up with a simple strategy during a timeout when the Toronto Raptors had a chance to complete a wild comeback: target James Harden. He has proven to be the anchor of a defense that greatly needs perimeter improvement, and it is hardly all the fault of Harden as the narrative often goes. "Honestly, if I have to score a lot of points tonight ... my teammates were making shots, Kenneth brought incredible energy". We're dealing with a player who has scored 30 or more points in 21 consecutive games and is averaging 45.3 points in January before last nights game.
Gordon scored 24 points, while Kenneth Faried, in his Rockets home debut finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds.
The Raptors had been on quite a run, winning eight of nine games, including several games without star forward Kawhi Leonard, but they lost their most recent game against the Indiana Pacers with Leonard and OG Anunoby out along with Jonas Valnciunas.
Luckily for James Harden, his scoring streak will live to see another day.
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The Twin Cities region of Minnesota is forecast to hit the minus 20s, and minus teens in Des Moines, Iowa; Chicago and Detroit. As horrifying as it sounds, there will be some who won't even come near seeing the aforementioned temperatures or wind chills.
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"I am just trying to do what-ever it takes to win", said Harden. "Everybody talks about him playing defence but. since I've been here he's stepped up (after) everybody called him out". A freakish series of events gave him a chance to hit the game-winner, but he airballed the last shot when challenged by Harden on the right wing.
Danny Green, who led Toronto's effort to slow Harden down thought they did a "decent job" on him. Eric Gordon, Kenneth Faried and P.J. Tucker were huge in the victory. "We have to do a better job of. doing both - stopping one guy and limiting the other guys from getting into rhythm as well".
The reigning league MVP has now scored 30 or more points in 22-straight games, the fourth-longest streak in National Basketball Association history. He shot just 9-of-15 from the field, making only one field goal in the final quarter, but went 15-of-15 from the free throw line. The strong play of Faried gave Harden some much-needed help Friday and The Beard will get another reinforcement Sunday night when Paul is expected to return after missing 17 games with a strained left hamstring.
The Raptors almost completed the last-second comeback, too, going on a quick 9-0 run thanks to 3-pointers from Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam and Danny Green to bring them within just two points with just 15 seconds left. Toronto cut it to five when Norman Powell connected from three with 8:34 left, but the Rockets scored the next 14 points to seemingly put the game away.
Houston then used a 9-0 run to extend the lead to 108-94 about three minutes later.