The Raptors gave as close to a full 48 minutes as we’ve ever seen. Yesterday against the Rockets, the Raptors solidified themselves as one of the most interesting teams in the league, since you don’t know which squad you are getting from a game-to-game basis. In a masterful display of defense, the Raptors flipped the switch on the Rockets, leaving them swinging elbows and wondering wtf happened. It was great. I was speaking to my buddy after the game, and he asked me if the Raptors had won the game (not knowing the outcome), since I was in a good mood. “Night and day” were his exact words.
It was the defense that stepped up yesterday and won it for the Raptors. From the tip, DeRozan and Turkoglu kept Ariza and Battier on a short leash. Not giving them the ability to spread the floor and create some space to operate in the paint. Scola was a beast in the paint early with 6pts 2rebs, but he was earning every basket with McHale-esque post moves. Jack got the nod with Jose out, again, and had a tough time with Brook’s quickness off the bounce. He made the little dynamo work on defense, bullying his way to the rack, but he didn’t let Brooks orchestrate any offense. The Rockets were forced to beat the Raptors off of one-on-one play in the first, and they just couldn’t. On the other end, the Rockets couldn’t deal with the Raptors size in the paint, as Bosh, Bargnani and Turkoglu made them pay possession after possession – scoring 26 (of 32 points) in the paint.
From the 2:25 mark of the 1st quarter until about the 8:40 mark of the 2nd, the Raptors bench provided QUALITY minutes of relief for the starters. A lineup of Banks, Belinelli, Weems, Johnson and Pops conceded 8 points in a 6 minute stretch that allowed the Raptors to stretch a 9 point lead to 15. Shocking, I know, with Banks on the floor and all. Pops was extra….Pops(?!?), as he wanted to exact some revenge on the Rockets for letting him go earlier in the season. He had two really big blocks, one of which forced me off the couch. Weems carried the offensive load for the B-squad, getting his points from slashes to the rim. We talked about this in the podcast, but Weems is doing a lot of the things that we thought DeRozan would be. It will be interesting to see who does what for the rest of the season with nothing guaranteed for the rook at this point.
The 3rd started ugly. The Rockets closed the gap to 9 points with a 5-1 run to start the quarter. The Raptors buckled down, and collapsed into the paint, forcing the Rockets to take bad jumpers from the perimeter. The surprising part was that they closed out on the shooters, not conceding an inch. A 12-0 Raptor run pushed the lead to 21 with the Raptors taking the ball into the paint, and kicking to the open man. Textbook. Jack and Turkoglu were doing everything. In fact, both of them had their best game of the year.
The Rockets cut the lead to 9 a few times, but the Raptors responded every single time. The second half saw the Rockets front court take it right to Bosh hard and in waves. Landry, Hayes and Scola were relentless with Bargnani part injured/part in foul trouble, and Bosh not carrying his weight in the second half (0 rebounds, ridiculous). It was the Raptor rebounding, or lack thereof, that let the Rockets hover on the fringe through the second half. Houston grabbed 9 offensive boards (25 total) in the second half compared to the Raptors 0 offensive (13 total) – Jack and Bargnani had 5 apiece accounting for 10 of the 13. And that was pretty much the game. The Raptors built a lead off of their defense, and maintained it with their defense.
Four Factors to Winning
As you can see, the Rockets lost this game because of their poor shooting. 38.5% eFG will not win you games, regardless of how well they defended the ball, grabbed offensive rebounds and got to the foul line. I’ll spare you the details, but it was defense that won the Raptors this game.
Jarrett Jack, it was all him today. Close to a triple-double, he did everything that was needed. This is the first time that Bosh hasn’t lit up this graph. Jack had a ridiculous game, to the point where I forgot about Calderon and was able to stomach Banks getting minutes
- Surprises me to say so, but a 27pt 6reb performance by Bosh was an uninspired one. He had ample opportunities to really dominate the paint on both ends but he didn’t.
- A rolling strategy for the Raptors in regards to Bargnani would be to let him get off first. Unlike most men, when he gets his he doesn’t roll over and fall asleep.
- Speaking of Bargnani, if the guy is injured, we need to sit him. Can’t risk having him go down for extended periods of time this season.
- Sonny Weems is doing what DeRozan should be. After glimpses into what Heir Canada can do, he has taken a backseat the last two games while Weems is doing everything he can with the opportunity he is getting.
- Is it time to trade Calderon? While I’m not a Banks fan, Belinelli/Turkoglu could be used to orchestrate the offense while Jack gets rest on the bench. Calderon (other then Bosh/Bargnani) is probably the only guy who can fetch anything of value in a trade, and if Jack keeps up this level of play…I’m just saying, it is something to think about.
- Above all, Triano had the best game of his life. His substitutions were spot on the whole time. He managed the starters minutes, especially during that 6 minute stretch between the end of the 1st and beginning of the 2nd.
- WTF was with Ariza and that elbow? It looked like he wanted to hurt our boy. DeRozan did shut him down (1pt lol), but you can’t be throwing MMA style maneuvers at a dude on the court. At least it should cost him some money when Stu Jackson watches the tape. Tell me you didn’t love seeing Jack standing up for DeRozan who had no idea what happened.
- We wont know until tomorrow night if the Raptors have turned the corner, when the Raptors roll into Florida to play the Magic and Heat on back-to-back nights.