In one of their worst defensive outings of the season, the Raptors allowed Houston to shoot 53% from the field and 50% from three-point land. Toronto failed to build off of a competitive game against the Spurs, as James Harden and Jeremy Lin carved up their defence, both finishing with double-digit assist totals. Terrence Ross provided the lone bright spot for the Raptors, as he registered career-highs of 19 points and 5 rebounds.

Rockets 117, Raptors 101

- Terrence Ross needs to be added to the starting lineup RIGHT NOW. Not only for development reasons, but because he is currently the second best wing player on this team. With the exception of possibly Linas Kleiza, Ross has the best 3-point shot of any wing player on the team and with the exception of Dom McGuire, Ross is the best wing defender on the team. His foot speed is definitely superior to McGuire’s. Ross played fantastic defence against James Harden on four possessions in the 2nd quarter, forcing four straight misses. The hook shot he showed late in the first quarter is something I haven’t seen before and it makes me think there are other wrinkles to Ross’ offensive repertoire that we haven’t seen. He then showed a nice two-dribble pull-up off of a screen-and-roll later in the 2nd quarter.

Ross also added two three four dunks of the spectacular variety – the type of plays that give a team an emotional boost.

- I don’t agree with running a post-up for Dom McGuire in the first 5 minutes of any game. There has to be higher priorities offensively. It’s especially befuddling to give him post looks early in the shot clock and early in the game. He is not a high percentage scorer.

- It’s not just that Andrea Bargnani doesn’t understand the concept of help defence – he clearly doesn’t understand the concept of rotations. When Valanciunas takes Bargnani’s man, Andrea must rotate to JV’s man, but this never seems to happen. In the second quarter, JV was forced to step out on a shooter, leaving Lowry to guard the 7-foot tall Omer Asik. Bargnani was standing three feet away and yet he was completely oblivious to the fact that he should have rotated on to Asik.  As a result, Omer converted an easy layup over Lowry.

Offensively, Bargnani put the ball on the floor four times in the first quarter and good things happened every time. He drew a foul on Patrick Patterson, cashed two reverse layups and missed a close hook shot. It’s very frustrating that Bargnani doesn’t look to do this when his jumper isn’t clicking – say in the Spurs game for example.

- I’ll say it again…every bucket Jose Calderon makes for you, he gives back at the defensive end. Jose got caught standing in no-man’s land (AGAIN) early in the 2nd quarter and gave up a three-pointer as a result. He promptly cashed a three at the other end.

- You can probably say the same thing about Linas Kleiza. His atrocious lateral quickness was on display as Chandler Parsons had a straight line drive against him in the 2nd quarter for an easy layup. If he is forced to respect an opponent’s three-point shot, as he should with Parsons, then he doesn’t have the ability to stay in front of them off the dribble.

- For some reason Dwane Casey continues to push out the two point guard lineup, as he appears to feel there isn’t enough playing time for Calderon if he only plays with the second unit. In my opinion, Calderon doesn’t deserve any more minutes. Toronto has 6 five-man units that are better than the best Calderon-Lowry unit, and yet they continue to play significant minutes together. As we talked about on Monday’s edition of RaptorBlog Radio, Casey needs help with his offensive tactics.

- It’s hard to believe that Kyle Lowry is playing at full strength. Ever since he returned from his ankle injury, he hasn’t been the same player at either end of the floor (7 pts [3-10 FG], 8 reb, 5 ast tonight). He isn’t able to stay with point guards on the defensive end and he isn’t able to beat them on the offensive end. Nobody has ever questioned his effort, so you have to think the ankle is slowing him down. Tony Parker got the better of him on Sunday and there is no other reason for Jeremy Lin to do this to Lowry…

- Amir Johnson  jacked up his fifth and sixth 3-pointers of the season. I get a sick feeling in my stomach every time I see him prepare to hoist these shots. If Amir thinks this will give him a leg up in the battle to be the first big man off the bench, he is sorely mistaken. Speaking of the battle to be that 3rd big man, Ed Davis had another solid effort tonight. He was 5/6 from the field and also recorded 4 rebounds and a block in 21 minutes of action. Although Amir made a couple nice passes, Ed took another step ahead of him tonight. The mid-range jump shot was Amir’s biggest advantage over Ed, but that advantage isn’t as big as it used to be…

- Team story of the first half was points off turnovers. Toronto gave up 16 points off turnovers in the first half and didn’t manage to score any themselves. They also gave up 9 offensive rebounds in that half.

- The third quarter was a defensive disaster for Toronto. The effort level appeared to drop as Houston poured in 39 points. The drive-and-kick game was the main problem as the Rockets made 7 three-pointers in the quarter – most of which came as a result of dribble penetration by Harden or Lin. Toronto won the fourth quarter (the only quarter they won), but they never closed the margin to make it competitive.

Raptors’ player of the game: Terrence Ross – 19 Pts, 9/17 FG, 1/4 3PT,  5 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 TO in 35:44

Rockets’ player of the game: James Harden – 24 Pts, 9/19 FG, 4/8 3PT, 2/3 FT, 6 Reb, 12 Ast, 3 Stl, 1 Blk, 4 TO in 43:36

Things don’t get any easier for the Raptors as they travel to Memphis for a date with the NBA-leading Grizzlies on Wednesday. Memphis has a league-low 2 losses this season and their frontcourt of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph might be the most imposing tandem in the league. If Toronto is going to keep this game competitive, Bargnani and JV will have to match the physicality of Gasol and Z-Bo.

I’m eying Friday’s home game against Phoenix as the spot for Toronto to break out of this losing streak.