Raptors wake up from sluggish start, defeat shorthanded Rockets

Toronto improves to 3-3 on road trip, final game in Memphis on Sunday.

The Houston crowd was lifeless to start this game and so were the Raptors.

In what felt like a pre-season atmosphere with plenty of empty seats, Toronto fell behind 9-0 in the first four minutes by missing its first six shots and adding a couple of careless turnovers.

“We just had to wake up a little bit. Played a little soft, turned the ball over, missed some easy ones.” Fred VanVleet said after the game.

Boucher’s game changing energy

Chris Boucher checked in probably earlier than he has in any game this season and immediately changed the intensity on both ends. Boucher scored seven of the Raptors first 10 points, crashed the offensive glass and added one of his patented perimeter blocks for good measure.

The result was a 14-2 Toronto run to close out the first quarter, cutting a 13 point deficit to just one.

“Wasn’t a lot of energy in the building or from us at the start. Give our guys off the bench some credit to come in and get some energy going and kind of righted the ship.” said Nick Nurse.

Feed the Hot hands

VanVleet or Gary Trent Jr, take your pick. They drove the offense for the majority of this game. Let’s begin with a play from Fred that will end up on his Raptors’ career highlight tape.

Trent took over in the second quarter, beginning a stretch were he made eight consecutive shots. Gary shot 6-6 for 15 points in the second, including back to back threes before halftime that gave the Raptors their first legitimate cushion of this game.

It was then Fred’s turn in the third. VanVleet came in averaging 26 points and eight assists over his last nine games, finally breaking free from a prolonged slump that plagued most of 2022.

The Raptors defence picked up after halftime, igniting their transition game. Fred was the beneficiary of some of that, but also found ways to score from anywhere.

VanVleet had 16 of his 32 points in the third, his second straight game with 30-plus. Fred is 12-28 from three (5-11 in this game) during that stretch. He is inching close to averaging 20 points this season and finally getting into the 40th percentile from the field.

“I’m a pretty decent player, believe it or not.” Fred replied when asked for the secret to his good shooting on the road trip.

Nick Nurse credited Fred’s overall health, just feeling better physically.

“He’s committed to playing with a lot of confidence right now. He had a really long tough shooting drought there, that’s over. That’s combined with his getting to the basket and I just think he’s got some bounce out there and he feels good.”

Nurse on VanVleet

Block Party

Scottie Barnes, Christian Koloko and Boucher (back in) were instrumental on defence in the third, helping the Raptors maintain a double digit lead.

Four of Toronto’s seven blocks came in the third. Overall, Boucher and Koloko combined for five off the bench. Combined with how Boucher changed the game in the opening minutes, Fred had a lot of praise for Boucher afterwards.

“He’s been big for us and that’s what we need from Chris. He’s got to be that presence off the bench for us. He’s got that sixth man identity where he can come in, provide a spark on both ends of the floor.

VanVleet on Boucher’s road trip


The Rockets were missing their top two scorers in Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr. Pascal Siakam played more of a complimentary role in this game with 23 points (10-20 FG), six boards and four assists. The All-Star snub was obviously disappointing but this wasn’t a “statement” type of game from Pascal in response.

What’s Next: Fred said numerous times postgame that Memphis whooped the Raptors in Toronto earlier this season, so the team should be ready for Sunday.

2 thoughts on “Raptors wake up from sluggish start, defeat shorthanded Rockets”

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