Game No. 39: Raptors 116, Rockets 98

The Raptors got out and ran from the opening tip to take advantage of a fatigued (Houston went to overtime in Boston on Tuesday night) and slumping Rockets team that has now lost five in a row.

The Raps shot the lights out while playing their usual smothering style on the defensive end to conclude their four-game home stand with an even 2-2 record.

Now here are some thoughts on the game.

1- What an offensive display from the hometown team. The Raptors shot an incredible 59 per cent (45-for-76) from the floor, 50 per cent (6-for-12) from three-point range and over 83 per cent (20-for-24) from the free throw line. Perhaps even more impressive is that of the nine Raptors players who took at least three shots in this game, seven of them shot 50 per cent or better. As a team, Toronto scored at least 24 points in all four quarters and scored 30 and 34 points in the second and fourth quarters. From start to finish, it just seemed that everything the Raptors threw up fell conveniently in the basket.

2- While it’s easy to dismiss massive offensive blips on the radar like this one as pure luck or a fluke, the Raptors deserve a big chunk of credit for how crisply they ran their offence and in particular, how well they shared the ball. Led by Jose Calderon’s game-high 12 assists, the Raps recorded an eye-popping 31 assists on just 45 made field goals. That’s nearly 70 per cent of their baskets coming from an assist. It was the result of the Raptors looking to make the extra pass on seemingly every possession, as I’m sure there were a boat load of hockey assists for Toronto in this game.

3- It’s a good thing the Raptors shot as well as they did on Wednesday night, because they weren’t getting any help from the officials. It’s tough to say whether the officiating was unbalanced or the Raptors were simply too aggressive on the defensive end, but the fact is this, the Raptors were called for 32 fouls compared to the Rockets’ 20, and Houston went to the line an astonishing 44 times, while Toronto made a more pedestrian 24 trips to the charity stripe. I’d say it’s extremely rare to have 20 less free throw attempts than your opponent and still win by 18 points. In total, there were 52 fouls in this game, or 1.08 fouls per minute. The only thing that kept the pace of the game moving was Toronto’s efficient offence.

4- I mentioned Calderon’s 12 assists already, but the Spaniard also poured in 17 points on seven-of-11 shooting to go along with three rebounds and a couple of steals. I suppose we could look at Jose’s three turnovers as a negative in this game, but at the end of the day, a 4-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, while simply average for Calderon, would be a highlight for many other lead guards. Quite simply, Jose clearly outplayed one of the better and younger point guards in the league in Kyle Lowry.

5- Fighting Calderon for player of the game honours were DeMar DeRozan and Amir Johnson. DeRozan attacked the basket, got to the free throw line eight times and showed off his steady mid-range game en route to a 23-point performance on eight-of-16 shooting. Amir put together a balanced stat-line of 14 points (on 7-of-10 shooting), eight rebounds, two assists and three blocks. Leandro Barbosa and Linas Kleiza also impressed in this ball game, coming off the bench to combine for 34 points on 14-of-26 shooting to go with eight rebounds, three assists (from Barbosa), two steals and a block (from Kleiza) in 26 and 24 minutes respectively.

6- The complete effort and team win over a potential Western Conference playoff team extends the Raptors’ run of consistency to 16 games. What I’m alluding to, of course, is the run the Raptors started on February 3 against the Wizards. Over that 16-game span, Toronto is 6-10, with the catch being that all 10 losses have been by seven points or less. The average margin of defeat in those 10 games is just 4.4 points and the Raptors point differential over the 16 games is actually positive, at +1.8.

What I find interesting about this stretch of competitiveness is that it started after a 36-point blowout loss in Boston. You always hear coaches and players talk about how “it won’t happen again” after they are embarrassed by another team, but rarely do teams actually come out with a grittier effort like the Raptors have since that Beantown beatdown. I’m not naive enough to believe this team won’t be blown out again, but I do believe they have learned and improved from that feeling of humiliation, and that’s more than I can say for Raptors teams of recent years.

***

Even Tank Nation loyalists can’t be too disappointed with this W, as the Wizards, Nets and Cavaliers all won on Wednesday, with the Hornets and Kings playing each other, so the Raptors won’t even negatively affect their lottery positioning with this solid home win.

Raptors Player of the Game: Jose Calderon – 35 Min, 17 Pts, 7-11 FG, 1-3 3PT, 2-2 FT, 3 Reb, 12 Ast, 2 Stl, 3 TO

Rockets Player of the Game: Chandler Parsons – 42 Min, 19 Pts, 6-9 FG, 1-1 3PT, 6-8 FT, 4 Reb, 2 Ast, 3 Stl, 1 Blk, 2 TO

Comments (12)

  1. I’m not a “tank nation” guy, though if a bad season led to a high pick I’ll be okay. But you know what? They are 5 games out of a playoff spot. If Bargs comes back you never know…

  2. Try as they might, the ref’s couldn’t win this one for the Rockets. They did their best and can’t be faulted for their efforts. The Rockets just weren’t receptive to the advantage.

    Another laughing ref game. I’ll be fined by Davis Stern no doubt.

  3. Just happy the Nets, Wizards, Cavs and Kings won.

    What a disaster this season is turning into, organization just can’t commit to anything.

    • PBI. You referring to MLSE or the Raptors? I think the Raptors have finally committed to defense and lots of players have committed to playing Casey’s way. A few pieces to the puzzle and they may finally get to the playoffs.

      What is your point?

      • I think he’s referring to this year as it was supposed to be a rebuilding year, giving the younger guys a chance, and where they should be trying to get a high pick.

        Not competing and trying to get wins when you’re basically out of the playoffs already.

        I like the effort they’re giving with Casey. But at this point in the season, it’s doing them more bad than good as far as the rebuilding plan. They need to commit to that, or they’ll be stuck with another late lottery pick.

        • Pretty much.

          I don’t want to go through another season like this and really accomplish nothing that benefits the long-term future of the organization. Not only are we winning more games than everyone expected (including the all-wise and all-knowing executive who put this team together) but we are doing it mostly because of the contributions of several veterans who have no future with this team.

          I guess it would be easier to deal with if most of the young talent wasn’t regressing or on short leashes where they aren’t allowed to play through their mistakes.

          Really important stretch coming up over the next week with games against the Pistons, Bucks, Cavaliers and Nets but at this point, it wouldn’t surprise me if they won all 4.

          • I’m with ya on that PBI. I’m all in favour of tank nation at this point. I’m really hoping that they are still commited to the rebuild and don’t stand pat with this roster to try and make a playoff push.

            As you said, an important stretch coming up against other lottery bound teams, as well as a return of Bargnani. It’s already not looking good, as I think they will probably win 3/4 of their next games.

            Getting a pick around 8-10th isn’t going to really help them much at all. Unfortunately, thats what it looks like they’re aiming for.

          • You know – we are not gonna finish in the bottom five. You really should deal with that now. Sadly, there are worse teams than us in this league.

            Lets just look at the positive – to start we might already have that elite rookie next year, and his name is Jonas.
            This entire season is a practice or both DeRozan and Davis. Next November both will be better players.
            Do we possibly have an all star Italian?
            Trade Jose? F that. We got ourselves a good point guard capable of leading this team for next four years, enough time to transition in a new PG not named Bayless.
            Of all our young players, I’d say James Johnson has proven himself more than the others. he’s signed next year.
            Amir, Kleiza. Cap Space.
            Improved defence, Coach Casey.

            I feel good as a Raptor fan.

          • Who knows. It certainly doesn’t look like they will finish bottom 5 now.

            You’re right though tinman. JV could be an elite rookie, but chances are, he will not be a double-double type player at least for a couple of seasons until he gets bigger and stronger. Plus, he fouls a lot, so its unlikely he’d play more than 30MPG, even as a starter.

            JJ, as well as a much improved defence is definitely a plus.

            I actually think they could be a playoff team, even as early next year. But my poblem is, at their best level in 5 or so years, I still see the current Raptors team as nothing more than a mediocre team, even if JV lives up to the hype.

            Mediocrity is the worst place to be as a team. I don’t want to see 5 years of rebuilding, only to get back to the same position they were 5 years ago, losing in the first round every year…just my opinion.

  4. Point diff. is a much better indicator than wins and losses, and probably tells us that this team is a lot better than it looks. If not for the top down plan of strategically losing to secure a high draft pick, Bargnani would have been back already and Toronto might actually be challenging for a playoff spot.

  5. Think Gray deserves an honorable mention here as he was a solid middle for most of the game.
    Casey sure doesn’t know when to sit him when he sees his legs getting heavy. Casey waits till he is weary and gets his 4th foul every damned time.
    Does casey not know his players?
    And some of the stats came once Huston was tanked.
    As I recall, they had one sick player who normally would haunt the Raps.

    And a BIG BIG worry is Bayless and his inability to avoid street ball when his opponant gets into his head.
    It takes such a simple pull of his chain and he is gone.

    • and by the way..IMO…he did this with Bargs as well.
      He might have come back to early from his last ingury, but he most certainly was over played that night he got hurt.
      Shame on coach.
      If his assistants were in his ear about this, and he ignored them, that is sorry.
      If they weren’t…shame on them.

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