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Raptors hang on to beat Rockets in Fred’s return

Completely different defensive effort compared to last week's meeting

Toronto flipped the script on Houston after an embarrassing showing vs the Rockets last week where they trailed by as many as 31. Fred VanVleet played in that game but wasn’t available in his return to where he called home for seven seasons because of a strained adductor.

The tributes came flowing anyway, starting well before night time.

During the first timeout, Fred received his video tribute. VanVleet said pre-game that he isn’t an emotional guy but might shed a tear. FVV managed to keep it under control, and also showed his appreciation on twitter.

Not the same Raptors defence

Last Friday in Houston was one of Toronto’s worst defensive efforts of the season. Houston scored 84 points in the paint and started clowning the Raptors in the fourth with behind the back passes and reverse alley-oop attempts Harlem Globetrotters style. It was the first game back from injury for Jakob Poeltl and Immanuel Quickley. The chemistry was off from jump street.

Different story last night. Gary Trent Jr. was aggressive on the ball, forcing four steals in the first quarter alone. The Rockets committed eight of their 22 turnovers during this stretch. Credit Gradey Dick as well staying front of his assignment numerous times.

Jakob Poeltl

This game was a perfect example of Jak’s importance to the team. Poeltl smothered the Rockets in a lot of classic drop coverage, tying a career-high with six blocks. He stonewalled other drives, also racking up three steals. The Rockets had less than half of their paint points total from last week, finishing with 38.

Toronto’s 22 point lead was cut to one late in the fourth but Jakob got a key offensive rebound in the final minute when the offence was struggling.

Poeltl’s final line: 16 points, 13 rebounds, six blocks, three assists, three steals and a plus-14. One of his best nights of the season.

RJ to Jak

RJ Barrett’s increased efficiency has been on display his entire 16 game tenure as a Raptor. Much has been made of the field goal percentage (especially attacking the rim), three point shooting and rebounding. However Barrett is also averaging a career-best 3.8 assists as a Raptor.

RJ and Jakob’s chemistry was on point. Whether it was on a roll or Barrett driving, check out these dimes (especially the last one).

Three of Barrett’s assists went to Poeltl. He finished with seven (new season-high) and fell only two shy of his career-high of nine.

Post Trade Deadline

Another component to this win is simply guys knowing this is the team for the rest of the season. It’s hard to develop anything with the roster changing drastically every couple weeks (the moves obviously were needed).

Poeltl spoke about that postgame.


  • Dillon Brooks had early foul trouble but held his own with 20 points and knocked down clutch threes to nearly steal this game. Cool Mississauga jersey swap between Brooks and Barrett.
  • Cam Whitmore taking off from nearly the free throw line might be the most ambitious dunk attempt of the season. Rookie’s got confidence.
  • Newcomers Kelly Olynyk and Ochai Agbaji were available but didn’t play. They are likely to make their debuts tonight.

Up Next: Raptors host the red hot Cavs on a back to back tonight. Will Toronto finally win three games in a row? Darko dinner on deck?