HOUSTON - Outworked, outplayed, outsmarted, the Raptors took one on the chin from the Rockets on Tuesday night, dropping to 3-12 in what has been a dismal start to the season following a 117-101 loss.
The Raptors had played hard most nights and suffered some brutally tough losses. This one was not one of them.
Defence was a rumour. Toronto turned the ball over nine times in the opening half, leading to 16 Houston points.
Then things got worse for the visitors.
Houston exploded out of the gate in the third, stretching the lead as high as 27 — twice — thanks primarily to seven made threes on 11 attempts, plus some more Raptors turnovers turned into makes at the other end.
A 10-0 run to close the third gave the Raptors a pulse, but Daequan Cook nailed a three at the buzzer to snatch momentum heading into the final frame and that was about it.
“I told our guys: ‘The first team that plays defence wins,’ and we didn’t. They went on a 7-0 run to start the third and that began the avalanche,” head coach Dwane Casey said.
“I thought Terrence Ross had his best game and gave us some big-time minutes. Now we need to get some other people to join the party.”
James Harden led the Rockets with 24 points and 12 assists, Jeremy Lin also had a double-double and Patrick Patterson added 22. Omer Asik terrorized the Raptors as he did even in brief minutes in Chicago, with 18 rebounds.
Ross might have been the only bright spot for the Raptors. The rookie defended Harden somewhat decently and far better than his mates and notched a career-high 19 points.
The rookie said he is adjusting to the speed of the NBA game.
Andrea Bargnani started strong with 19 points in the first half (12 in the first quarter), but vanished after that. DeMar DeRozan struggled throughout with bad turnovers and poor defence.
Toronto has not won in Houston since Feb. 28, 2007.
Kyle Lowry underplayed his first game against the Rockets since being dealt in the off-season and didn’t have much jump. Odd, since he consistently throttled his first team.
Lowry turned in a quiet seven point, five assist evening, missing 7-of-10 shots and afterwards termed his outing: “terrible, no ifs ands or buts, I played horrible.
“I made (bad) decisions, I missed some shots. But it’s only one game, I won’t keep my head down. We’ve got another one tomorrow, I’m sure I’ll be better.”
Now, the Raptors head to Memphis to take on the NBA’s top team with a record 10 games under .500 heading home looking like a good bet.
After a meeting with Phoenix, the Raptors return to the road for a brutal slog.
The Raptors said swingman Landry Fields had sutures removed on Monday and will see his doctor in New York City again in two weeks. There is no timetable on his return, but it is expected to be at least a month.
Alan Anderson is still at least two weeks away from a return from his foot injury.
The Rockets played the game with heavy hearts. Head coach Kevin McHale’s 23-year-old daughter Sasha recently passed away and the team will go to her funeral on Wednesday before heading for Oklahoma City for Harden’s return to that city.
Raptors head coach Dwane Casey was head coach in Minnesota under GM McHale.