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Raptors needed to be excellent and they were

All right, before we get into the nitty-gritty – or as much of it as I can scramble through in another early morning after a late game – let’s make one last call for mail.

Busy day ahead trying to watch Brock on the computer at 1 or so, the 905ers at 2 and then write before Carleton-Ryerson (bet that’s a good one) and the Saskatchewan-Regina battle in the U Sports women’s semis but there’s always time to read The People. Stop by askdoug@thestar.ca and do what you do.

Now, a delightful game.


The Raptors took away almost everything Houston likes to do and does well, they played smart and hard and made shots and maybe it wasn’t a “statement” win but it was a helluva good performance they should be rightfully proud of.

And given one day and one shootaround to come up with some kind of game plan for a great team they hadn’t seen in months, someone’s gotta give Dwane Casey and his staff a ton of credit.

Okay, Kyle, you do it.

“Game plan. Game plan. That was our game plan, to keep them inside the three. We know they’re going to shoot them. They’re going to get them up. We held them inside the three. We can’t take everything away from them. We tried to take away one of their strengths.”

Lowry’s seven threes were a huge part of the win, he got open looks because the Raptors put him in the pick and rolls they wanted but the defensive performance overall was outstanding and why they won.

DeMar locked up James Harden on a couple of possessions, Valanciunas had a huge blocked shot late in the game and the perimeter guys stayed with shooters.

The DeRozan possessions were monstrous, as Casey pointed out.

“He told on himself. I tell him all the time, he’s a better defender than he’s shown. He got down in a stance, he chested him.”

And, yeah, it was one game and there 17 more to go and they do only lead Boston by 2 ½ games for first in the East with two against the Celtics to come but it was an exceptional performance against a team you can’t beat without being exceptional.

And a fun night all around.


Making them work

The Rockets came into the game firing up about 42 three-pointers a game and for the Raptors to hold them to just 27 – and only nine in the first half – was the difference.

They did it mainly by sticking to their men on the perimeter and not worrying an awful lot about penetration and not getting caught up in high screen roll action, making sure to stay attached to both the ball-handler and the screener.

That’s about all Dwane would tell us about how they did it.

“Well, there is a way. But if I tell you I would have to shoot you. It’s one of those things where guys just stuck with the game plan.”

Worked as well as anyone could imagine against the most free-shooting team in the league.

Double with a difference

Jonas Valanciunas had an excellent game, a 14-10 double-double and he handled a new defensive twist – for Raptor opponents quite well.

The few times he got the ball in the post, the Rockets would send a second defender to try and rush him into a quick turnover but they sent PJ Tucker from along the baseline to trap him, rather than a wing from the side.

Valanciunas rarely sees that kind of double but handled it well, the first time he turned and made a shot, the second he got the ball out of their toute de suite.

Solid, solid game.

Trying his best

Jakob Poellt didn’t stat out particularly well, two points and two rebounds in 20 minutes, but, man he was quick and effective and really had a good game.

And took whatever assignment he was given.

There was a two-possession stretch of the second quarter where he was pushed to the limit and did whatever he could under trying circumstances.

On the first one, he got switched onto Joe Johnson and that’s not optimal and on the next one he got switched onto Chris Paul and that’s disastrous.

And, sure, the Rockets got a couple of two-pointers out of it but Poeltl made ‘em work, he made it easier for his teammates to stay with three-point shooters and the kid just did his level best.


I’m big Drake fan – not necessarily of his music but that’s coming around, but of his unwavering support of the Raptors and true appreciation for his city. Plus, from a distance he seems like quite a nice, likeable young man. But there is no way the Raptors should have asked him to address the crowd DURING THE GAME. Pre-game, sure. During a timeout? Never.

If it felt historic, it was. The win moved the Raptors to 48-17 and it’s the first time in franchise history the team’s ever been 31 games over .500.

And that’s gonna wrap up this morning. Back with mail tomorrow.