HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Rockets needed a spark against the Toronto Raptors to bounce back from a loss to Dallas in which they were so lethargic that coach Kevin McHale said it looked like they were wearing “mud shoes.”
Corey Brewer provided that spark, coming off the bench to score a season-high 26 points and help the Rockets cruise to a 98-76 win on Saturday night.
James Harden scored 16 of his 20 points in Houston’s big third quarter to help in the victory.
“Last night was a rough game,” Brewer said of Friday’s loss. “We didn’t have any energy coming back from the break and it bit us pretty bad. So I felt like I had to bring energy … I tried to come out and play hard and everything worked out.”
Harden, who leads the NBA in scoring, got off to a tough start and had just four points by halftime. The Rockets led by four points with less than 4 minutes left in the third before going on a 12-1 run, with seven points from Harden, to take a 68-53 lead into the fourth and end his night.
“We didn’t play a clean game, but we played hard,” McHale said. “We looked lively and we looked bouncy.”
A night after handling Atlanta 105-80, the Raptors had a chance to extend their road winning streak to a franchise-record six games. Instead, they were done in by 23 turnovers to snap a four-game winning streak overall and lose away from home for the first time since Jan. 21.
“They were hungrier, played harder and did all the hard and grimy things that we did last night that we didn’t do tonight,” Toronto coach Dwayne Casey said of Houston.
James Johnson’s 27 points led the Raptors, who entered averaging 105.6 points a game but struggled with a Houston defense that tied a season-high with 17 steals and had nine blocked shots.
“It’s about effort and energy,” Harden said. “When you have the entire team playing like that for four quarters, it’s tough to beat us.”
Brewer also had 10 rebounds and five steals for Houston and Terrence Jones added 11 points, nine rebounds and three blocks.
Toronto scored five straight points to cut the lead to 47-44 with about 7 minutes left in the third quarter. Harden had made just one of his first eight shots and was 0 of 4 on 3-pointers when he hit his first one to end Houston’s scoring drought. That 3 was the first of a 9-4 run by Houston, which included a second 3 by Harden, that stretched the lead to 56-48 with 5 minutes left in the quarter.
The Raptors scored eight straight points early in the second quarter, thanks to two 3-pointers, to take a 26-23 lead about 10 minutes before halftime.
Houston then used a 12-1 spurt to regain a 35-27 lead midway through the quarter. Brewer led the way during that stretch, scoring six points and finding Jones on an alley-oop dunk. Brewer’s two-handed slam capped the run and brought the home crowd to its feet.
The Raptors had five turnovers and Jones blocked two shots to help Houston build the lead.
Toronto finally cleaned things up and outscored Houston 9-5 the rest of the half to cut the lead to 40-36 at halftime.
Raptors: Kyle Lowry, who played for the Rockets from 2009-12, finished with 11 points on 2 of 13 shooting. … Saturday was the first of four straight games against the Western Conference for Toronto. The Raptors are 12-8 against the West this season.
Rockets: Saturday’s game was the start of five straight games at home for Houston. … The Rockets wore jerseys to commemorate this week’s Lunar New Year.
NEW FACES: G Pablo Prigioni and G/F KJ McDaniels, both acquired in trades on Thursday, made their debuts for Houston on Saturday night. McHale said before the game that he wanted to get a practice in before playing them, but put both in late in the fourth quarter with Houston up big. Prigioni was traded from the Knicks and McDaniels from the 76ers.
Raptors: Visit New Orleans on Monday.
Rockets: Host Minnesota on Monday.
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