Saitama: The NBA champions Toronto Raptors won a preseason game against the Houston Rockets 134-129 in Japan on Tuesday, a matchup clouded by a controversial tweet from a Houston executive that angered China.
Pascal Siakam, the 2019 Most Improved Player, scored 24 points for the Raptors as Serge Ibaka added 18 and guard Fred VanVleet contributed 16. Three-time All-Star Marc Gasol stayed on the Tronto bench.
Former NBA Most Valuable Player Russell Westbrook, traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder, made his Rockets debut by scoring 13 points.
Rockets star James Harden netted a game-high 34 points and Centre Clint Capela added 12 for Houston.
The match came after a tweet by Rockets general manager Daryl Morey in which he backed anti-government protests in Hong Kong. It led to Chinese sponsors abandoning the team and the state-run TV network cutting them from the airwaves.
Ahead of the game, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the organisation would continue to "support freedom of expression and certainly freedom of expression of the NBA community."
The Raptors last season became the first league champion from outside the United States by dethroning the defending titleholders Golden State in the finals.
But the Raptors now face a tough season after NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Kawhi Leonard left for the Los Angeles Clippers, after leading Toronto to an NBA crown.
The Houston Rockets won more than 50 games but missed the Western Conference finals after they were defeated by Stephen Curry-led Golden State last season.
The two teams will hold another preseason game on Thursday.
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Updated Date: Oct 08, 2019 19:36:32 IST