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No Kyle Lowry, No Problem, Surprising Raptors Win Again

The Raptors were without their starting point guard Kyle Lowry on Wednesday when the Houston Rockets visited Toronto and they lost their starting power forward Amir Johnson 3 minutes into the game, but it was no problem as Greivis Vasquez picked up Lowry and Patrick Patterson covered for Johnson and the Raptors defeated the Rockets 107-103.

“With Kyle not being able to go and then Amir gave what he could the first few minutes of the game, guys stepped up,” said Head Coach Dwane Casey. “The most minutes Greivis (Vasquez) played all year. Patrick (Patterson) coming back from injury played big minutes and guys stepped in and stepped up.”

The Rockets were without starting point guard Patrick Beverley or starting center Dwight Howard and had played in Brooklyn the night before, but in the no excuses NBA, this game was their third loss in a row and there will be no sympathy for the Rockets if injuries cause them to fall out of fourth place in the Western Conference.

“We have been very lucky,” Casey said. “The little injury bug has hit us a little bit, but the schedule is not going to stop, we got to keep going, next man up.”

The Rockets next men up are pretty good. Jeremy Lin started for Beverley and Omer Asik started in place of Howard and Houston came out on fire, building a 23-11 lead in the first 9 minutes. Head Coach Dwane Casey responded by bringing in John Salmons and then Nando De Colo and Tyler Hansbrough in quick succession. The Raptors reserves went on a 12-2 run over the final 3 minutes of the quarter to bring the score back to within 2 points and the game was on. Only a buzzer beating long distance three-pointer by DeMar DeRozan enabled the Raptors to go up by 5 points at the half 55-50.

“Once we made up our mind we were going to play some defense, we did a decent job,” Casey said.

It looked like Toronto was taking control of the game in the third quarter as they slowly built an 82-62 lead over 8.2 minutes, but then turnovers by Steve Novak, Tyler Hansbrough, Nando De Colo and Salmons let the Rockets back into the game and the Raptors lead was cut to 90-80.

The good news for Toronto was they were 17-0 when carrying a lead into the fourth quarter, but as has happened many times before, they let the Rockets nearly wipe out their advantage before responding. An 11-2 run for the Rockets cut the lead to 1 point before Toronto came back with a 6-1 run for a 6 point lead that they were able to ride to the finish.

The Raptors are now 18-0 at home when leading at the end of three quarters.

DeMar DeRozan lead all scorers with 29 points. A cut between the fingers near the end of the game turned him into a passer and a defender or he would have scored 30 plus. Vasquez had 15 points and 8 assists as the starting point guard. Valanciunas had 15 points and a very active Terrence Ross had 14 points and a team high 9 rebounds.

James Harden led the Rockets with 26 points. Asik had 9 points and a game high 15 boards. Chandler Parsons scored 20 points and Jeremy Lin had 16 points and 7 assists as his team’s starting point guard.

With the win, the Raptors have a record of 16 wins and 14 losses against the West and hold onto third place in the Eastern Conference, tied with the Bulls at 43-32. The Nets lost to the Knicks pushing the Raptors lead in the Atlantic Division to 2.5 games. This was Casey’s 100th win as the Raptors head coach.

“All I know is it’s number 43 for us this year,” Casey said. “It’s not about personal. It’s about the team, the organization and the players. To start where we did and build – we are still building – is a tribute to the young guys and the players who have been through here.”

Johnson tweaked the same ankle that has been bothering him all year. Lowry missed the game with a sore knee.  Whether Johnson or Lowry will be available on Friday to face the Pacers isn’t known.

The Rockets return home to play the Thunder on Friday.


Stephen_Brotherston_inside Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.


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