THE FACTS: After rolling past the Toronto Raptors -- the latest Eastern Conference team to leave Toyota Center with a loss -- the Houston Rockets have completed their climb back to .500. The Rockets can only wish they could beat up on teams from the East often enough to never worry about dropping below .500 again.
James Harden scored 24 points and dished out a career-high-tying 12 assists, Patick Patterson added 22 points, and Omer Asik recorded a double-double of 13 points and 18 rebounds as Houston wrapped up a 3-0 homestand with a 117-101 victory over Toronto on Tuesday. With the win, the Rockets (7-7) improved to 6-1 against the Eastern Conference this season.
Andrea Bargnani led the Raptors (3-12), losers of five consecutive games overall and six straight in Houston, with 21 points on 8-for-12 shooting. Rookie Terrence Ross poured in a career-high 19 points and snatched five boards.
QUOTABLE: "I just think a lot of it is natural evolution. We're finding each other better. We're making the extra pass better. ... This past week, we've really worked on getting ourselves better. You can tell our offense is crisper."
-- Houston acting coach Kelvin Sampson
THE STAT: The Rockets protected the ball exceptionally well before halftime, committing only two turnovers. Toronto, meanwhile, allowed 16 points off nine first-half giveaways to cancel out its 55.0 percent shooting performance.
TURNING POINT: Houston could sense that the Raptors were reeling heading into halftime, and Harden landed the finishing punch by opening the second half with a furious 11-point stretch. In addition to draining three consecutive 3-point attempts, Harden drove to the hoop and threw down a slam during a 17-4 Rockets run that gave Houston a 78-55 lead with 7:41 remaining in the third period.
HOT: Patterson did not record any statistic, aside from two fouls, in his three minutes on the court during the first period. In 18 minutes of action after that, the third-year forward racked up 22 points on 7-for-12 shooting, five boards and one steal.
QUOTABLE II: "It sucks to be sitting on the bench watching your teammates play even though you want to be out there. ... After that, I just wanted to come out and do everything: score, rebound, push the ball."
-- Rockets' Patrick Patterson
NOT: Toronto guard Kyle Lowry, who spent more than three seasons in a Rockets uniform, had a forgettable return to Houston. The Raptors floor general finished with only seven points on 3-for-10 shooting to go with five assists and three turnovers.
GOOD MOVE: After Raptors coach Dwane Casey went to his twin towers on the bench, Ed Davis and Amir Johnson, to give his team a decisive advantage on the interior, Toronto ripped off a 7-0 spurt to cut a 32-23 deficit to two points about two minutes into the second period. Rockets coach Kelvin Sampson responded by placing his starting frontcourt of Asik and Patterson back into the game, and Houston's lead continued to grow until the eventual outcome was obvious. With the Raptors unable to force turnovers or dominate on the glass, their offense simply was not enough to keep them within striking distance.
BAD MOVE: Toronto is hardly a team full of quitters, but it dropped to 0-6 this season when trailing after the first quarter and 0-11 when trailing at halftime. If the Raptors plan to avoid being the cellar dwellers of the Atlantic Division again, they must display more resilience.
NOTABLE: Houston's players wore a green band on the shoulder of their uniforms to memorialize coach Kevin McHale's daughter, Sasha McHale, who died Saturday after losing a lengthy battle with Lupus. Kevin McHale has been away from the team since Nov. 10. ... The Rockets will fly to Minneapolis following Tuesday's game to attend Sasha's funeral, which will be held Wednesday morning. The team will then immediately depart to Oklahoma City for Wednesday night's matchup with the Thunder. ... Houston forward Carlos Delfino (strained groin) said at Tuesday's shootaround that he is targeting Saturday's game against Utah for his return. He said he wants to participate in at least one full practice, ideally on Friday, before he returns to the lineup. ... Toronto is 3-15 all-time in Houston. ... The Raptors fell to 1-5 this season when they reach 100 points. ... All five of Houston's starters have scored in double figures in back-to-back game. ... Rockets forward Chandler Parsons has netted at least 10 points in a career-high eight consecutive games. ... Houston scored a season-high 38 points in the third period.
QUOTABLE III: "Tomorrow's definitely going to be a long day. It's emotional, but I think we're strong enough to get through it. We've got to be there for coach [McHale] ... Our biggest thing is just supporting him and making sure that we comfort him in knowing that we're there for him."
-- Rockets' James Harden
UP NEXT: For the Raptors, Wednesday @ Memphis, Friday vs. Phoenix, Monday @ Denver. For the Rockets, Wednesday @ Oklahoma City, Saturday vs. Utah, Tuesday vs. L.A. Lakers.
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