Over 16 000 fans were on hand to see a dandy of a game inside the ACC on Friday night.
The Raptors got off to a good start, the Rockets kept up, and we had a solid back-and-forth ball game going all night.
Sure, the Raps had a couple of lapses here and there that resulted in Houston making some runs, but give credit to Jay Triano and the coaching staff for calling timely timeouts and switching up Toronto’s defensive schemes to stop those runs.
A 13-point first half lead for the Raptors had actually become a six-point deficit late in the third quarter, but the Raps recovered with a 7-0 run to end the third with a slim lead.
Then, for the second straight game, Toronto dominated the fourth quarter with (mostly) quality possessions and timely stops to pull away down the stretch.
The Raptors outscored the Rockets 31-22 in the fourth, as the liveliest ACC crowd of the young season cheered on.
It should be noted that in the last two fourth quarters combined, the Raptors have outscored their opponents 56-37. For a team that had so much trouble closing out games through the first few weeks of the season, perhaps the last couple of fourth quarters were indications of growth.
This was truly an all-around team-win for Toronto. Bargnani led the charge, but all nine players that saw action chipped in. Sonny was hot early and battled through foul trouble. DeMar decided to relentlessly attack the rim in the second half. Kleiza abused whoever was defending him. Amir and Reggie continued to do what they do, the dirty work. David Andersen consistently nailed his jumper from the top of the key, and the two point guards combined for 14 points and 15 assists, while committing only three turnovers.
Jose was the better point-man again tonight, but credit Jarrett Jack for sharing the rock and spreading the wealth when he realized his jumper was still M.I.A. Jack had eight dimes and just one turnover in 23 minutes.
One thing I wanted to mention tonight has to do with plus/minus. Usually, I know it’s a useless stat. But in a close ball game like tonight’s, when you look at the boxscore and see Amir Johsnon at +29, Calderon at +27, and Kleiza at +20, it has to mean something, no?
It’s a rather irrelevant point, but has anyone noticed the Raptors have been outstanding on Friday nights this season? They blew out Cleveland, stunned Orlando and slipped by the Rockets all in Friday night affairs, and their lone Friday night loss came in a great effort against the two-time defending champs in L.A.
Next up, the Celtics, who the Raptors haven’t beaten at the ACC since the 2006-07 season and the team who has won eight straight versus the Raptors. No one’s expecting a W, but it would be nice to see this young team at least stick around.
Raptors Player of the Game: Andrea Bargnani -36 Min, 26 Pts, 11-17 FG, 1-1 3Pt, 3-3 FT, 6 Reb, 4 Ast (Andrea looked unstoppable, offensively, tonight. Inside, outside, he had it all going)
Rockets Player of the Game: Kevin Martin – 40 Min, 31 Pts, 8-16 FG, 4-7 3Pt, 11-11 FT, 4 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 Stl
Goat of the Game: Chase Budinger – 14 Min, 0 Pts, 0-6 FG, 0-3 3Pt, 1 Reb, 2 TO (Not to mention, he was absolutely abused by Linas Kleiza in the post.)