TORONTO — The Toronto Raptors came away with yet another close victory as they gear up for the playoffs.
Pascal Siakam had a double-double with 29 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Raptors past the Houston Rockets 117-115 Friday night.
With the win, Toronto can now finish no lower than fifth in the Eastern Conference with one game left to play in the regular season.
Gary Trent Jr. had 26 points for Toronto (48-33), while Scottie Barnes added 16 in the victory.
The Rockets (20-61) were led by Kevin Porter Jr., who finished with a double-double with 35 points and 10 rebounds.
The Raptors have now won three games in a row and sport an 8-2 record in their last 10 games.
Toronto got off to a slow start, going down by as many as 24 points early in the second quarter.
“There wasn’t a lot of movement to try to stop them,” said Raptors head coach Nick Nurse. “We gave up a bunch of layups and a bunch of wide-open threes.”
Toronto was able to chip away at the deficit, though, and got the game back to a tie on several occasions in the third and fourth quarters.
A difficult layup from Trent Jr. with just 4.8 seconds to go proved to be the game winner, as Toronto’s defence stood tall on Houston’s last possession to secure the win.
“Just whatever the defence gives me,” said Trent Jr. when asked about how he approaches the game in the clutch. “Whenever I see the opportunity, take it, be assertive, be confident.”
Trent Jr. and Raptors rookie Barnes combined to score 21 points in the fourth quarter with Barnes electrifying the sold-out crowd of 19,800 in attendance at Scotiabank Arena with a fast-break dunk to put the Raptors up by four with just a few minutes to go followed up by Trent Jr.’s game-winning layup just a few minutes later.
“It’s everything you dream of,” said Trent on having the ball in his hands with the game on the line. “It’s everything you work for . . . the house was rocking, and I can’t wait to see what it’s talking about next week.”
Barnes, who finished strong scoring 12 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, impressed Nurse with his closing effort in the tight game.
“One of the things I always speak about is competitive drive. Do you want to compete? (Barnes) and Gary both have really played in fourth quarters,” Nurse said. “It’s all just competitive drive and I think the moment of the game overtakes them and they both start competing like heck.”
Although Trent Jr. and Barnes took over in the fourth, it was Siakam’s effort that kept the Raptors within striking distance heading into the crucial final frame. He had 18 of Toronto’s 57 points in the first half, keeping the game competitive as Houston’s lead grew.
The Rockets raced out to a hot start, as Toronto struggled on both ends of the court early in the game. The Rockets shot 65.2 per cent from the field in the first quarter, while the Raptors managed just 22.2 per cent in their own end.
Fifteen first-quarter points from Houston guard Porter Jr. led the Rockets to a 16-point lead after the opening frame.
Toronto began to come to life in the second, as they outscored the Rockets in that quarter 37-30 and Siakam scoring 14 points in the period.
The Raptors will travel to New York to take on the Knicks in their regular-season finale on Sunday.