NBA highlights on Mar. 5: Rockets rise to No.3 in West after victory
Li Xiang

The Houston Rockets visited the Scotiabank Arena on Tuesday and defeated the Toronto Raptors 107-95 to rise to No.3 on the Western Conference. The Boston Celtics humiliated the Golden State Warriors by beating the defending champion 128-95 at the Oracle Arena.

Bench squad are Achilles' heel of Raptors

Marc Gasol #33 of the Toronto Raptors handles the ball under the defense of Nene of the Houston Rockets in the game, March 5. /VCG Photo

Marc Gasol #33 of the Toronto Raptors handles the ball under the defense of Nene of the Houston Rockets in the game, March 5. /VCG Photo

James Harden got the court's highest 35 points for Houston. Eric Gordon scored 13 points, Clint Capela grabbed 15 rebounds and Chris Paul delivered 10 assists. Gerald Green and Austin Rivers made key contributions from the bench with respectively 18 and 13 points.

Kawhi Leonard dropped Toronto's 26 points. Both Pascal Siakam and Serge Ibaka had double-double: Siakam scored 17 points+10 rebounds and Ibaka scored 10 points+15 rebounds plus five blocks. Danny Green made four of his 13 three-pointers to get 14 points.

Chris Paul #3 of the Rockets under the defense of three players of the Raptors in the game, March 5. /VCG Photo

Chris Paul #3 of the Rockets under the defense of three players of the Raptors in the game, March 5. /VCG Photo

The game went to the Raptors' direction in the first quarter as the referees did not call many fouls, meaning no vast number of free throws for Harden. Though the home team trailed 19-23 this quarter, they managed to limit Harden's points under 10. By the way, no player from either side scored double-digit points.

Bench players brought bad luck to Toronto in the second quarter as they struggled in offense. The Rockets took this opportunity to launch a 19-4 run via three-pointers and transitional attacks. Though the Raptors sent back their first-lineup to keep the situation from getting worse, the team still trailed 37-55 after the second half.

Besides scoring, Houston also led in 3-pt made (7-3), 3-pt rate (43.25 percent-23.08 percent), early offense points (15-3) and steals (9-1).

Serge Ibaka of the Raptors blocks in the game against the Rockets, March 5. /VCG Photo

Serge Ibaka of the Raptors blocks in the game against the Rockets, March 5. /VCG Photo

The Raptors launched effective counter strike in the third quarter thanks to the efforts of the team's first-lineup squad. Ibaka remained under the rim and stopped the opponent form scoring in the paint. Besides, Toronto grew warm from the 3-pt line to bury three shots. In the first four minutes and 30 seconds this quarter, the home team launched a 15-2 while the Rockets missed all their filed goals and got only two points via free throws. Furthermore, Harden committed his fourth foul in Q3, making his unreliable defense a bigger weakness in defense. Toronto did not let this chance go and sent their players to attack Harden on purpose.

Thanks to a 34-14 Q3, Toronto regained the lead 71-69 before the fourth quarter.

However, the Raptors failed to learn their lesson as their bench squad continued their disappointing performance in both offense and defense in Q4. Houston soon launched a 14-2 run the first three minutes and 30 seconds of this quarter. What made things worse for the home team was that their first-lineup players seemed to forget how to play together when they came back. Everyone became obsessed with isolation play instead of making an extra pass. Houston managed to keep a lead around 10 points before they claimed the victory.

What will it take to get GSW to care again?

Players of the Golden State Warriors in the game against the Boston Celtics, March 5. /VCG Photo

Players of the Golden State Warriors in the game against the Boston Celtics, March 5. /VCG Photo

The Warriors lost again, which was not really news, but the real news was that their 33-point loss against the Celtics made the biggest loss at home since Steve Kerr took over as the team's head coach in 2014.

Kevin Durant's play in the game was the perfect miniature of how disappointing Golden State were on Tuesday. In both offense and defense, Durant seemed to be in a different world from his teammates. He shot when there were teammates open and passed when he had good mismatch. In the 31 minutes he played, KD sank only five of his 16 shots to get 18 points, two rebounds and two assists yet he committed five turnovers.

Jayson Tatum #0 of the Celtics blocks shot by DeMarcus Cousins of the Warriors in the game, March 5. /VCG Photo

Jayson Tatum #0 of the Celtics blocks shot by DeMarcus Cousins of the Warriors in the game, March 5. /VCG Photo

The Warriors were a mess as a whole. They shot terribly in the game with a filed goal rate of 40 percent and a 3-pt rate of 22.86 percent. Only three players scored over 10 points (Curry, Durant and DeMarcus Cousins). They did not defend at all-the Celtics scored respectively 32, 41 and 32 points in the first three quarters before the game became a foregone conclusion.

As for Boston, this victory meant a lot. The team was annoyed by rumors about internal conflicts for weeks and the best way to quiet down rumors was a big win over a tough opponent. Moreover, Gordon Hayward played an incredible game by making 12 of his 16 shots, including four three-pointers to get the court's highest 30 points.

Gordon Hayward #20 of the Celtcis dunks in the game against the Warriors, March 5. /VCG Photo

Gordon Hayward #20 of the Celtcis dunks in the game against the Warriors, March 5. /VCG Photo

Chinese basketball commentators Yang Yi and Ke Fan said regular season games were already "boring" for the Warriors which won three championships in the past four years. However, the team showed more problems than before this season than any season of the past, ranging from defense to their focus on the game. Maybe this humiliating loss could serve as a wakening call, or maybe not.

Other games on Tuesday included: (away teams come first)

Chicago Bulls 96-105 Indiana Pacers

Orlando Magic 106-114 Philadelphia 76ers

Portland Trail Blazers 111-120 Memphis Grizzlies

Oklahoma City Thunder 120-131 Minnesota Timberwolves