With of­fence and de­fence click­ing, Toronto shoots down the mighty Rock­ets

The Province - - SPORTS - MIKE GAN­TER mgan­ter@post­media.com @Mike_Gan­ter

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

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