Takeaways: Raptors rebound by attacking Rockets’ defence

The Toronto Raptors put a disappointing loss in Boston on Sunday firmly in the rearview Tuesday night with their best and most impressive performance of the season.

On the road facing a Houston Rockets team that entered last night’s action riding a six-game win streak and tied with Golden State for the best record in the Western Conference, Toronto took it to the Rockets defence en route to a loud 129-113 win. It was the Raptors’ largest margin of victory since the second game of the season and Houston’s worst loss to date, despite a 37-point, 11-assist performance from James Harden.

While the Raptors led by double-digits for most of the second half, the Rockets brought the game to as close as eight points in the fourth. They had their chances to complete the comeback, but simply couldn’t hit their shots— it’s not often Eric Gordon will go scoreless from deep and him, Harden, and Ryan Anderson will combine to sink just five three-pointers on 24 attempts.

Coming into the game shooting just 33 per cent from deep, the Raptors were 14-30 from beyond the arc (46.7 per cent) against a team that makes its living behind the three-point line like no other in the NBA. Turns out that making or missing your shots can go a long way to winning or losing basketball games.

Here are (slightly more elaborate) takeaways from Toronto’s first “signature win” of the young season:

Bench lifts Raps, starters help finish the job
It’s not that the Raptors came out of the gate poorly, which has been the case at other times this season. Early in the game they countered the Rockets warp speed pace with a series of methodical possessions that featured a slick two-way game between DeMar DeRozan and big man Jonas Valanciunas, who scored half of his 12 points in the first quarter.

But it was the second unit that came in and provided the team with a boost, which has also been the case at other times this season. The Raps reserves played with a bounce in their step and were extremely active on Tuesday. Dwane Casey and his staff utilized a three-point-guard unit, and a lineup featuring Fred Van Vleet, Kyle Lowry (more on him in a moment), Delon Wright, Serge Ibaka, and Jakob Poeltl did some serious damage in the first half. They pounced on turnover opportunities, pushed the pace, and carved up a weak Houston defence, giving Toronto a double-digit lead that would blossom to as many as 20 points by the second half.

Wright in particular stepped up to the occasion and stayed out on the floor for crucial possessions in the fourth quarter, often drawing Harden as a defensive assignment (despite his gaudy numbers, Harden shot just 8-25 from the floor and 3-11 from deep). He finished the game with a plus-18 rating in 25 minutes and was a perfect 5-5 shooting.

Wright was the most impressive reserve on the night but he wasn’t alone in …read more

Source:: Sportsnet.ca – Sports news


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