It sure wasn’t pretty and the Houston Rockets should be thanking the zebras for keeping them in it early, but they hung on for a much needed win with a solid team effort.
So I’ve been waiting to see this game all season. I’ve grown accustomed to several things this year covering both the Raptors and Rockets. For example I’m used to seeing the Rockets save their better efforts for the elite teams. I’m used to Harden posting great scoring efforts and stats and equally used to him dribbling the ball for large portions of the shot clock and playing defense as it suits him.
And above all I’m used to the referees treating visiting teams to the ACC (even the Knicks, Nets and Sixers) like they are on their own home court and as if they were all the Golden State Warriors. That’s not to say the Rockets didn’t earn their whistles. That said the refs kept the Rockets in this one early until they got rolling in the second half and by then the Raptors had taken their foot ever so slightly off the gas pedal. It doesn’t happen often to the Raptors as their record indicates. As much as there was some excellent performances by the Rockets tonight knowing the Raptors this felt more like Toronto gave the game away than the Rockets won it.
It was a horribly officiated game with my two teams playing, but again I felt the whistle kept Houston in it when they could’ve been buried early. Hey, I’ll take the win for the Rockets …they need it and I’ll lick my wounds over the Raptors not quite being gritty enough or countering their angst of the whistle by buckling down. Trust me it will serve to make the Raptors refocus and play better defense. At the end of the night the Rockets hung around to capture a much needed win and ultimately they earned it.
Here’s the player grades.
Rockets Player Grades
From my perspective there were 5 key points leading to the Rockets victory:
- Harden’s full offensive arsenal
- An early helpful whistle that sent Valanciunas and DeRozan to the bench and also didn’t reciprocate a consistent call (but was made up for later). Just for the record DeMar DeRozan had ONE free throw in the first half (technical foul) and in the game the Rockets got 37 free throws to the Raptors 27 and Harden had 8 less free throws then the Raptors team.
- Corey Brewer shooting unlike he has all season
- Ariza’s defense
- And again just from my perspective Capela was the x factor. His stops on DeRozan late coupled with his paint protection and blocks sealed the victory.
In closing, when I consider whether I would rather invest my time in a gritty team or a team that might or might not show up to play, doesn’t appear to like each other and has more problems that I can count I think the choice is easy. From a selfish stand point the Raptors and Rockets would meet each other in the finals and I’d be writing about both. And if I could help them reach that stage I’d transplant the Raptors heart and grit into the Rockets on a nightly basis and I’d send Donatas Motiejunas to Toronto to help heir cause.
The Rockets will take this win and Clutch City fans will pray they can bottle portions of their winning effort and extend it through their final games. For Toronto the good news awaits on the side lines as DeMarre Carroll their defensive specialist acquired this summer, and who has missed 38 games is practicing one on one and set to return sometime in March. His grit will help their cause.
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