Archive for the ‘Houston Rockets’ Category

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

Start time: 7:00 PM ET
Channel: Sportsnet One
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, Amir Johnson, Aaron Gray
Houston: Kyle Lowry, Kevin Martin, Chandler Parsons, Luis Scola, Samuel Dalembert

Injury report

Toronto: Andrew Bargnani will probably return to action next weekend, or shortly thereafter.

Houston: Hasheem Thabeet and Jordan Hill are out.

What’s cooler than being cool? Ice cold! The Rockets are positively frigid right now as they carry a four-game losing streak into the Air Canada Centre tonight. In fairness, their last two losses were in overtime so it’s not they’re getting steamrolled. But they’re only a game ahead of the Timberwolves for the eighth seed in the West, so they should bring some urgency to their play.

Amir Johnson has been cleared to play for the Raptors, but Andrea Bargnani probably won’t be back until at least next weekend. You might recall that, eight days ago, the Rockets squeaked out a three-point win over the Raptors after Linas Kleiza missed what would have been a game-tying three-pointer with three seconds left in the fourth quarter. Poor long-range shooting led to the Raptors’ demise that game, as they only shot 2-for-17 beyond the arc.

That’s all I’ve got for now because, as I’m trying to write this post, I’ve been overseeing the relaunch of Drunk Jays Fans on our website. The original address should redirect within a couple of days, but if you’re a fan of that blog — and why wouldn’t you be? — change your bookmark to the new location.

Game No. 34: Rockets 88, Raptors 85

The Raptors started the second half of the 2011-2012 season in similar fashion to the way they played games in the first half. A slow start, a good effort to claw back into the game and make it interesting, not enough talent to close it out or grab a W.

Now here are some thoughts on the game.

1- What else is new? Despite finally figuring out how to play a first quarter at home, the Raptors continue to come out laying eggs in their opening quarters on the road. The rested Raptors looked more like the rusted Raptors early, beginning the contest with a two-for-11 shooting display over the first few minutes and six turnovers over the span of the first quarter. Not surprisingly, the Raps found themselves down 12 after one. Toronto has now gone 12 straight road games without winning a first quarter (last first quarter win came January 10 at Washington), a horrible road recipe for a young team low on talent.

2- James Johnson, DeMar DeRozan and Ed Davis had the most noticeably positive games for the Raptors on this night, but Jamaal Magloire’s contribution in his 15 minutes of action should not go unmentioned. Magloire made himself a presence in the paint on both ends of the floor, set hard screens, grabbed some rebounds and brought a physicality that I believe changed the ball game early in the second quarter, the same way he did in the Raptors’ tough loss to the Lakers a few weeks ago. Jamaal was brought home to Toronto to provide a veteran presence and give the Raptors dependable spot minutes when called upon. As bad as he’s looked at times this season, it seems like he has finally settled into his role and is now simply doing his job. And that’s perfectly fine.

3- DeMar DeRozan had another nice night offensively, scoring 17 points on 14 field goal attempts to go along with a couple of boards, an assist, a steal and two blocks. DeRozan scored all of his points through the first three quarters, however, as he was curiously stapled to the bench for much of the fourth quarter. I’m not sure if Dwane Casey was unhappy with something about DeMar’s game tonight, if he was simply sticking with a lineup that had them in a close game down the stretch, or if it was all part of the Tank Nation “conspiracy” (sarcasm by the way, as I can’t see Casey stomaching a purposeful tank). Whatever it was,  DeMar didn’t know the reason either, or he did, and just wasn’t happy with it:

 

For the record, that tweet has now mysteriously disappeared. The NBA’s twitter policy does state that players can’t tweet until after they “have finished their responsibilities after games.” The game finished around 10:30. DeMar’s tweet was sent at 11:13. Hopefully one of the beat reporters can confirm soon enough whether DeMar completed his post-game responsibilities before tweeting. Either way, expect insane reaction, massive speculation and maybe even some confusion over what this tweet was really about, if we haven’t already figured it out.

4- Speaking of guys who were riding the pine down the stretch, Jose Calderon and Jerryd Bayless sat and watched for most of the fourth quarter while Anthony Carter and Leandro Barbosa patrolled the back court for Toronto. Again, part of that was probably just Casey sticking with a lineup that was working, but it obviously also had to do with Jose’s off night and Jerryd’s atrocious night. I didn’t think Calderon was that bad on the offensive side, but he wasn’t giving Casey much on the defensive end. As for Bayless, he had just four points (on six shots), two rebounds and two assists while committing an ugly five turnovers in only 12 minutes. Jerryd never looked like he had his head in this game.

5- Houston’s general success doesn’t shock me, as I did predict they’d be one of the eight teams that would make the playoffs out West, but I thought they would be the kind of team that has to scrap out games in late April to get in. That still may very well be the case, but as of right now, the Rockets are more concerned with getting home court in the first round than they are about just getting in. At 18-7 since January 13 and 21-14 overall, Houston is currently tied with the Lakers for fourth in the conference. They have no one scoring more than 18 points per game and no one grabbing even eight rebounds per game, but the Rockets are very well balanced, are obviously playing hard for Kevin McHale and are getting some outstanding point guard play from Kyle Lowry, who came into this game averaging 15.6 points, 7.6 assists, 5.3 rebounds and two steals per game, while boasting a Player Efficiency Rating over 20.

6- We’re all hoping that Ed Davis can finish off this season the way he finished strong in his rookie campaign last year, and Tuesday night in Houston was definitely a step in the right direction for him. Davis had been playing better heading into the All Star break, and continued his improved play tonight with five points on just two field goal attempts (made them both) and a ridiculous 15 rebounds (plus a block) in only 22 minutes of floor time. I don’t have a problem with how Amir Johnson played tonight, but given that Davis is starting to find some consistency and that I believe Amir’s energetic bursts are best suited off of the bench, I’d really like to see Ed get some starts until Bargnani is ready to return.

***

At the end of the day, the Raptors competed and had a chance to tie the game in the final minute on the road against one of the hottest teams in the NBA, and a team that looks like a playoff club in the Western Conference. In their last 11 games, the Raptors are just 3-8, but none of their eight losses have been by more than seven points and four of those defeats have finished as one-possession games. Tank Nation has to be smiling right now.

Raptors Player of the Game: James Johnson – 34 Min, 16 Pts, 6-12 FG, 0-2 3PT, 4-4 FT, 8 Reb, 3 Ast, 3 Stl, 1 Blk, 2 TO

Rockets Player of the Game: Kyle Lowry – 38 Min, 26 Pts, 8-12 FG, 4-4 3PT, 6-7 FT, 3 Reb, 5 Ast, 3 TO

Make sure you come check out RaptorBlog on Wednesday, as we’ll post a great interview that theScore’s Glenn Schiiler recently did with Jose Calderon.

Start time: 8:00 PM ET
Channel: TSN
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, Amir Johnson, Aaron Gray
Houston: Kyle Lowry, Kevin Martin, Chandler Parsons, Luis Scola, Samuel Dalembert

Injury report

Toronto: Linas Kleiza will play tonight, while Andrea Bargnani still doesn’t have a set timetable for his return.

Houston: Jordan Hill and Hasheem Thabeet are both expected to miss tonight’s game.

While I’m happy for the return of real NBA basketball, I’m slightly less enthusiastic about the Raptors’ return after six days of rest. With no Bargnani, they’re going to have a tough time beating any NBA team, much less one of the hottest teams in the league in the Houston Rockets.

The Rockets don’t have star power and they don’t get a lot of attention, but they are no joke. After winning four of their last five games — including impressive victories over the Thunder and 76ers — they’re tied with the Lakers for fifth in the Western Conference and they’re just one game behind the Lakers for third. While they’re ninth in the league in Offensive Rating with 105 points scored per 100 possessions, they’re all about balance when it comes to scoring — no Rocket averages over 20 points per game but nine of them average at least seven points.

Houston’s biggest surprise this season might be the play of Samuel Dalembert, who is only averaging 23 minutes per game but currently has the best Player Efficiency Rating (17.3) of his 10-season NBA career. And the Rockets’ second unit featuring solid role players like Goran Dragic, Courtney Lee, Chase Budinger and Patrick Patterson helps make up one of the strongest benches in the league.

Keep an eye on Houston’s perimeter defense tonight — with an opponents’ three-point percentage of .310, they guard the arc better than any team in the league outside of Boston.

Random thoughts…

  • Jonas Valanciunas scored 17 points on 7-for-9 shooting to lead Lietuvos Rytas to the Eurocup quarterfinals with an 80-74 win over Benetton today.
  • Weigh in on theScore’s “Greatest Sports Games Ever” bracket. I voted for NBA 2K12, of course.
  • I’d be way more entertained by the NBA All-Star Game if they let this guy do the commentary:

Luis Scola and Yao Ming

When Yao Ming and Aaron Brooks went down early in the season with injuries and the Rockets had a 5-12 record after 17 games, it looked like another hard-luck lost season in Houston. While Yao is out for the season (and possibly forever), Aaron Brooks is back in the lineup and the Rockets have won 10 of their last 14 games — they were on a five-game winning streak before losing by six points to the Heat on Wednesday.

Since they’re only two wins behind Portland for eighth seed in the Western Conference and they have the smart GM-coach combo of Daryl Morey and Rick Adelman running the team, I’ll be surprised if the Rockets don’t make the playoffs this season. They have to be in that mindset as well, and I assume that they’ll be dialed in to play an injury-depleted Raptors team in Houston tonight. I expect this to be quite the opposite style of the Raptors’ low-scoring victory in Dallas on Tuesday — both teams will probably score over 100 points and the game will be decided by who can make key stops in the fourth quarter.

Injury report

Toronto: OK, deep breath… Jose Calderon, Jerryd Bayless and Amir Johnson will be game-time decisions. Sonny Weems is probably out. Andrea Bargnani, Reggie Evans and Peja Stojakovic are definitely out. What’s that, half the freakin’ roster? Hey, at least we’ve got an excuse for why this team stinks, right? No?

Houston: Chuck Hayes sprained his ankle in practice yesterday and he’s expected to miss the next two to four weeks. Yao Ming is out for the season, and we may never see him play NBA basketball again. :(

Five questions

1. After Ed Davis’ performance (17 points, 12 rebounds, three blocks, three steals) in the Raptors’ upset over the Mavericks on Tuesday, do you think he could be Toronto’s best draft pick since Chris Bosh in 2003?

2. Did any of you want Bryan Colangelo to draft Patrick Patterson instead of Ed Davis? Patterson has played 15 minutes for the Rockets so far this season.

3.With Houston’s recent troubles over the past two seasons, would you swap GMs with them if you could?

4.With all the Raptors’ injuries, will we see some Solomon Alabi action if the Raptors are getting blown out late in the game?

5. Who would be your choice for starting center of an NBA all-redneck team: Brad Miller or Chris Kaman?

Start time: 7:00 PM ET
Channel: Sportsnet One
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jerryd Bayless, DeMar DeRozan, Linas Kleiza, Joey Dorsey, Amir Johnson
Houston: Kyle Lowry, Kevin Martin, Shane Battier, Luis Scola, Brad Miller

I’m pretty sure there won’t be a Raptorblog recap for this game because, well, you do know what tonight is, right? For the pregame song, I offer up this dude playing “Auld Lang Syne” on the banjo — it gets good at around the 50-second mark, as far as banjo playing goes. Have a fun, safe time tonight.