RAPS BLAST OFF
With offence and defence clicking, Toronto shoots down the mighty Rockets
HOUSTON — It’s no secret how the Houston Rockets beat you.
They have speed, they have improved both their defence and their rebounding from a year ago but most definitively they will try and shoot you out of the building with their three-point accuracy and pure volume of three-point attempts.
To beat that combination takes a ton of hard work and perseverance. The Raptors did just that a year ago in this very building and almost managed to pull of the sweep before losing late in Toronto.
For the better part of two full days Dwane Casey and his staff preached hard work and all that preaching paid off with another tough win in Houston, this one by a 129-113 score.
“The key is you’ve got to commit to it,” Casey said at the morning shootaround. “You’ve got to understand they’re going to shoot 44 of them again, they’re going to shoot 34% and you’ve got to understand your job, your task is to get out and challenge each and every one of them as hard as you can. Vault up, try to contest it.
“What happens is they hit a couple and people lose their will, their resolve to keep playing hard,” Casey said. “The way we beat them here last year, we played harder for 48 minutes. And that’s what you’ve got to do.”
If Casey has been more proud of his team this year than he was after this one, we don’t recall it.
The Raptors basically beat the Rockets at their own game out three-pointing them 14-12 in the win.
DeMar DeRozan, who didn’t make a three, led all Raptors with 27 but he got plenty of help with 19 from Kyle Lowry, a huge 16 from rookie OG Anunoby and 19 off the bench from C.J. Miles, who was 6-for-9 from distance and seemed to save his biggest makes for when the Rockets were threatening the most.
James Harden still got his 38 but it didn’t matter as the Raptors outworked the Houston team for its eighth win in 13 games and handing Houston just its fourth loss in its first 15.
One guy the Raptors didn’t have to worry about down the stretch was former teammate P.J. Tucker who was ejected with 5:08 to go in the third quarter taking one of the Rockets’ premiere defenders out of the mix.
Tucker was just one of many players on both sides who became extremely frustrated at points through the night with an officiating crew that seemed determined to set some sort of record for fouls called in a game.
For a half everything was coming up Raptors.
Anunoby, thrust into a starting role with Norm Powell out with a hip pointer, settled in nicely.
No, he didn’t have any more luck shutting down James Harden than the rest of the league does, but he did not look out of place chipping in with a career-best 10 first-half points, including a pair of threes on two attempts. He was a teambest plus-11 in the half.
But that was just the totally unexpected.
The lesser surprise was the continued of DeRozan both scoring and getting to the free throw line.
More of a surprise was Lowry finally getting to the line, something that was a big part of his game a year ago but dried up this year with the combination of less time with the ball in his hands and an officials’ change in the way they award free throws.
Lowry, though, was noticeably more aggressive in his return to Houston, a place he once played an enjoyed quite a bit.
In addition to getting to the line eight times in the first half, which is more than he has done in the month of November to date, he was driving and forcing the issue like he was a season ago.
The Raptors came into this one talking about making the expecting rain of three pointers coming from Houston as hard as humanly possible and for a good part of the night they did that.
Through a half the Raptors actually had one more three pointer than the Rockets seven.
There will be no time to dwell on this one for the Raptors. They lace them up again tonight in New Orleans where they will take on a Pelicans team that has only lost once in the past six games and that was against these Raptors.
Rockets’ Eric Gordon (left) and Raptors rookie OG Anunoby dive for a loose ball in Houston last night. GETTY IMAGES