In a clash of two banged-up squads, the Toronto Raptors managed to hold off the Houston Rockets. The Raps came out flat in Q1, and bid fair to be run out of their own building. They had only 7 points after more than half the quarter had been played. Similarly, after rolling to a 20-point margin in Q3, which was still 10 as Q4 opened, another spell of cold shooting allowed the Rox back into a game I’m sure they thought was out of reach. Though the visitors closed to within a point, the Raps had just enough left in the tank to push the lead back to 8, then hang on for the win.
Kyle Lowry didn’t dress due to a knee injury, so Greivis Vasquez started at the point. His contribution was huge; 15 points and 8 assists, without a turnover. Amir Johnson injured (or re-injured) his ankle and was gone after barely 2 minutes of PT. Raps coach Dwane Casey decided on a power-forward-by-committee approach, so Patrick Patterson, Tyler Hansbrough and Steve Novak all played significant minutes. Similarly, when Greivis needed a breather, Nando De Colo got the assignment. While the lanky Frenchman doesn’t look like a star in waiting, he played steady minutes, and is already of greater value than the departed Austin Daye. The visitors were missing monster centre Dwight Howard and pesky guard Patrick Beverley, so needed the scoring of All-Star guard James Harden even more than usual. They got it, as Harden poured in 26, despite the best efforts of Terrence Ross. Our best player needed to be just that, and DeMar DeRozan was. He sleepwalked through Q1, then electrified the Air Canada Centre with 15 points in Q2. DD was 6 of 6 from the floor, including an off-the-glass 3-ball to close the half. He didn’t let up in the second half, attacking the basket while drawing fouls. He ended with 29 points in 4o minutes.
TRoss led the Raps with 9 rebounds, a development we’ve been waiting for. Few swingmen have his hops, nor his quickness, a facility which allowed him to cut to the basket several times to receive passes for easy points. Jonas Valanciunas had Omer Asik, the NBA’s best second-string centre, leaning on him, but still contributed 15 points. John Salmons showed signs of emerging from a dreadful shooting slump with 12 points.
Thirteen of Asik’s 16 rebounds were off the defensive glass, which largely explains why the Raps had only 10 offensive boards.
The Indiana Pacers come to town on Friday night.