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