THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
In game two of the Toronto Raptors three game stretch against the NBA elite, the Raptors were able to hold on against the Houston Rockets 107-103. What makes this win even more impressive was that Kyle Lowry was out for this contest, and Amir Johnson was lost in the first quarter to a sore ankle. Greivis Vasquez filled in admirably, the bench provided great production, and DeMar DeRozan led all scorers with 29 points. With the Brooklyn Nets losing to the New York Knicks, the Raptors now have a two and a half game lead in the Atlantic division.
You have got to hit your free throws. The Raptors were 6-13 from the stripe to start the game, which contributed to their sluggish start. They then only managed to hit two of their last four from the stripe, which almost allowed the Rockets to pull off a miracle comeback. The fourth quarter offense was sluggish, only managing to put up 17 points. Before that, they were sublime. The ball moved around, generating a lot of open looks. John Salmons is finally looking like he’s breaking out of his funk, scoring 12 points. Patrick Patterson had eight, and every starter aside from the injured Johnson had at least 14 points. They were able to out gun the Rockets, a tough task to accomplish.
After establishing an 82-62 lead in the third quarter, the Raptors defense just vanished. Steve Novak should simply not be on the floor if he’s not draining threes. The Rockets were able to get hot from the land beyond and almost stole one at the ACC. There were some timely stops however, including some great clutch play from DeRozan.
The Raptors were outrebounded 47-36, including 10-3 on the offensive glass. It’s difficult against Omer Asik, who followed up his 20+ rebounding performance against the Nets with 15 against the Raptors. Terrence Ross was one rebound shy of a double-double, grabbing nine boards to go along with 14 points.
Game Ball: DeMar DeRozan
Initially I was going to split this between DeRozan and Vasquez. Vasquez did a great job filling in for the Raptors lifeblood, Lowry. He kept the ball moving, scored 15 points, and provided a tremendous amount of energy. DeRozan just separated himself in that fourth quarter. The team needed more than just scoring in Lowry’s absence, and the Raptors only all-star gave them what they needed in that crucial fourth quarter. He drew a big charge on Jeremy Lin. He had a timely steal as the Rockets were still threatening to give every Raptors fan a coronary. He committed a very smart foul against Asik to prevent a dunk. His passing was great, collecting four assists, and he grabbed six rebounds. Leaders step up when they’re needed the most, and DeRozan did just that. When the Raptors were looking sluggish to start the fourth, he strapped the team on his back and prevented his team from blowing a 20 point lead. Just a superb all-around performance by DeRozan.