The Toronto Raptors welcomed the Houston Rockets into the Air Canada Centre for a much anticipated matchup against the Western conference powerhouse. The Raptors started off slow in this game as Houston came out and dictated the pace of the game with their defensive intensity. Toronto was slow to match the compete level of the Rockets but found their rhythm as the game went on. James Harden eclipsed the 30 point mark once again this season, finishing the game with a team-high 31 points. The Raptors were led by DeMar DeRozan finished with a c 42 points on an efficient 14/27 shooting after struggling early on. After receiving a technical foul, DeRozan elevated his level of play going on to score 12 points in the second and fourth quarters. The Rockets haven’t won in Toronto since 2007 and will have to wait until next year to end that losing streak north of the border.
When this game started it seemed as if the Raptors were going repeat their subpar performance against the Rockets. Thanks to 6th man of the year candidate Louis Williams, Toronto was able to salvage their bumpy start and tie the game at 27 after the first. Jonas Valanciunas also had a solid game offensively with 15 points on 5/9 shooting, however foul trouble limited his overall production. This was an up and down affair for both teams. Toronto had 10 turnovers at the half and were able to settle down committing only five more for the rest of the game. Without All-star Kyle Lowry, DeRozan was forced to bounce back from his mediocre performance against the Los Angeles Lakers and lead his team to victory tonight.
It was evident that the constant movement and hard cuts from the Rockets were creating problems for the Raptors defence. Many times did Houston move the ball from side to side, breaking down Toronto’s defence for easy attempts at the rim. Rookie CLint Capella had a coming out party of sorts as he threw down a slew of poster dunks on and around the Raptors’ players. James Harden did his usual James Harden thing against the Raptors as he’s virtually un-guardable. The veteran presence of Pablo Prigioni created problems for the Raptors defence using his poise and court vision to drop countless dimes to his teammates in the absence of Patrick Beverley. The Rockets were shorthanded, playing their second game in a back-to-back but didn’t show any signs of fatigue as they put it to the Raptors. Houston finished with 96 points on 42% shooting. The Raptors may not have been able to stop the Rockets tonight, but they did a superb job of containing them.
The Raptors won the battle on the glass against the Rockets 48-41. The effort of Amir Johnson, DeRozan and Valanciunas hitting the glass should all be applauded. The three starters combined for 36 of the Raptors 48 total rebounds. The Raptors were hit by the whistle on countless occasions but were able to adjust and continue battling with intensity against the likes of Joey Dorsey and Josh Smith.
Game Ball: DeMar DeRozan
Tonight’s game-ball goes to none other than DeMar DeRozan who had a career night against fellow gold medalist and team USA teammate, James Harden. DeRozan finished the game with a line of 42 points 11 rebounds and converted on 12 of 17 free-throws. With the post-season fast approaching, the Raptors will need more of these concentrated performances from their leader.