The Toronto Raptors capped off the 2010 portion of the 2010-2011 NBA season the same way they started on opening night against the Knicks on October 27th: With a loss.

This one was different, though. Falling to the Houston Rockets on the road, the Raptors were down to nine bodies, eight after reserve Jerryd Bayless had to be taken out of the game after re-aggravating an ankle injury that was sustained during the Raptors  Tuesday night victory over the Mavs.

Despite the thinned roster, tired and achy bodies and temptations to rush through the game to get on a plane and return to Toronto to ring in 2011, the Raptors fought. They fought hard and they did not fold after a crippling second quarter that saw them give up 42 points to the Rockets. Starting Joey Dorsey and Amir Johnson along with  injured Jose Calderon, up-and-down sophomore DeMar DeRozan and Linas Kleiza, one wonders what coach Jay Triano has running through his head when looking at his bench, trying to figure out substitutions when the bodies just are not there.

Reggie Evans was spending his new year “in the hood” with his healing foot, Andrea Bargnani was back in Toronto with that strained calf, Sonny Weems was looking sleek, but stuck on the sidelines with a sore back rooting BFF DeRozan on and Peja Stojakovic was likely stashed in an empty gym somewhere, hitting much-needed three-pointer after three-pointer…nah, just playing, he’s still got that swollen left-knee.

So, against Houston, the team went with that nine-man rotation that was shortened to eight and they came out on the losing end, but came out showing something.

DeRozan, specifically, showed something.

After scoring eight points in the first half, DeRozan exploded for 29 points in the second, finishing with a career-high 37 points. Not a bad way to finish off 2010. Especially nice to see when you defend DeRozan’s talent and work ethic on days that most days that end with “y” and also write things like this.

So the game was a brilliant one for DeRozan. The team needed it without Andrea Bargnani. Perhaps, he needed it even more than they did, to see what he can do when he makes the decision to be aggressive.

His big night wasn’t enough for the team to get the victory, but his performance becomes a blueprint for what his coaches can begin demanding from him. This is as important as any late December victory in my books.

Now, to get to the actual game: Raptors were up…and then they gave up those 42 second quarter points and fell behind at the half. They battled until the end and that’s about it. They shared a few holiday greetings with the Rockets, hopped on a plane to get back to Toronto and tomorrow they will face the Boston Celtics.

To be honest, I didn’t see the game. I was finishing off a visit in Nova Scotia with family and flew home early this morning. Still, I had a ton of texts and bbms and tweets from people telling me all about DeRozan’s big night. Now that I’m finally back in Toronto, I’m looking forward to watching it for myself.

And with these 500+ words of ramble that are the result of pulling an all-nighter last night/this morning, I will leave you go until tomorrow. Not a typical recap, but it wasn’t a typical night. Happy 2011, everyone. May DeRozan and the rest of us all have continued success and happiness.