Rockets 102, Raptors 115 - Houston serves turnovers for Thanksgiving

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Are turnovers a typical dish served at Thanksgiving dinner?

Well, the Rockets sure think they are. The Rockets served up a season-high 26 turnovers to the Toronto Raptors on their way to a 115-102 loss. James Harden alone had twelve (yikes) in 40 minutes of play.

The game got off to an ugly start for both teams. The Rockets came out with more lethargy than most of America will have after a third plate of turkey tomorrow (Happy Thanksgiving, by the way). James Harden really struggled to get anything going as Toronto did a great job of clogging the paint and forcing Harden into tough situations. He would have four of the team’s six turnovers in the quarter. Houston also failed to hit anything from beyond the arc, missing all eight of their attempts in the quarter. Fortunately, the Rockets held their own defensively and, after Harden hit a buzzer beating lay-up that ended a four-minute scoring drought, were only down 24-20 by the end of the period.

If the first quarter was bad, then the second was absolutely dreadful.

The bench unit gave the Rockets a small spark with 12 quick points, but they couldn’t really take advantage or cut into the lead. Harden and some of the other starters checked back in the game and the lethargy returned (the illustrious fourth plate of turkey, if you will). The Raptors built the lead to 11 and the game grinded to a halt. Midway through the quarter the Rockets committed several fouls in a row (while it seemed the refs missed some calls on Toronto) and Toyota Center grew restless. They erupted in applause when Toronto was finally called for a foul minutes later.

The Rockets added seven more turnovers in the second period on their way to a 15-point deficit (54-39). The only bright spots of the first half came from Clint Capela, who had eight points, five rebounds, and four blocked shots, and from Pat Beverley, who will always bring energy and has been a much better playmaker this season than he’s ever been.

The third quarter got off to an encouraging start, with Harden assisting on three made baskets from beyond the arc (two to Trevor Ariza and one to Corey Brewer). However, things quickly got out of hand when DeMar DeRozan got the hot hand. He scored 13 points in the first six minutes and finished with 20 in the period. The Raptors pushed their lead to 16 by the end of the third.

The Rockets were really going to need to dig deep in order to have any shot of making a comeback, and Head Coach Mike D’Antoni made the necessary changes to allow it to happen – namely, he kept James Harden in the game (Harden nearly played the entire second half). Normally, Harden would sit the first six minutes of the fourth quarter before being brought back in to close things out. However, Harden stayed in the game and looked more like the MVP-caliber talent he is. There was a renewed energy to not only Harden, but to the entire squad, evidenced by a 12-2 run that cut the deficit to 10. This run took advantage of DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas getting some rest, along with a great stretch of defense, much improved three-point shooting, and ball movement.

Another 10-2 run later in the period allowed Houston to cut the deficit to seven points (a near miracle given the way the Rockets looked for the majority of this game). During that run, the Rockets were battling on the glass and hitting threes. Ryan Anderson, who has been in a shooting slump the last few games, hit a couple of deep threes late in the game. Unfortunately, this short barrage from beyond the arc wasn’t enough to stop Houston from turning the ball over and handing Toronto more easy baskets to end things once and for all.

The Rockets kick off a five-game road trip (the second such trip of this young season) on Friday when they head to Sacramento to take on DeMarcus Cousins and the Kings.

Game Ball

This is a segment of the game recaps that will give the proverbial game ball to a player that proved to be most valuable to the Rockets on a given night. This award won’t necessarily go to the player that puts up the best numbers, but to the player that made the greatest impact on the team – tangible or intangible.

Wednesday’s game ball goes to Patrick Beverley.

For much of this game, it felt that no one was going to do enough to actually earn this game ball. James Harden was a turnover machine and Clint Capela’s production stagnated after halftime (there may still be issues with his conditioning), but Pat was absolutely the reason the Rockets gave themselves a chance to win the game. He finished with 10 points on 66.67% shooting, 10 rebounds (four offensive), and four assists, but his intangibles are what truly mattered in this game. His hustle is always something that will have a positive effect on the team, and it’s infectious – even when the rest of the team can’t muster up the energy to compete.

This is the kind of game that last season’s team would’ve just given up on. Not even Beverley’s heart and hustle could have changed things - they would have gotten run over. However, this is a brand new season and this is clearly a new team that might actually like playing basketball together. Beverley’s play has a lot to do with that, and it galvanized the Rockets comeback and will be a driving force for the Rockets success this season.

Man, it’s good to have Wolverine back.

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