Toronto 106, Houston 90

HOUSTON, Feb. 28 (AP) -- After a 16-point loss in their last game, the Toronto Raptors talked about improving their passing.

That fundamental translated into some excellent shooting Wednesday night as the Raptors used a strong first half to build a 20-point lead and beat the Houston Rockets 106-90.

Andrea Bargnani scored 20 points and T.J. Ford and Kris Humphries added 16 apiece for the Raptors, winners of 10 of 13. Toronto was coming off a 107-91 loss at San Antonio on Monday night.

"After not playing so well at San Antonio, today we moved the ball well,'' said Bargnani, who was 8-for-12 from the field, including 4-for-5 on 3-pointers. "We moved the ball and we got open looks.

"Some days you hit the shots. Some days you don't. Today was a good day for shots.''

Coach Sam Mitchell agreed.

"We moved the ball very good and got a lot of open looks,'' he said. "That's what we knew we had to do against them. Our bench was unbelievable. Kris Humphries played the best game he has played in a long time.''

Mitchell also likes the way the rookie Bargnani is playing.

"He's getting comfortable,'' Mitchell said. "He's just starting to show how good he's going to be.''

Tracy McGrady scored 22 points for Houston, which has lost four of six.

"We want to play better,'' Shane Battier said. "We know that if we want to do anything this season, we can't have stretches like this. Everyone goes through them but the good teams come out of them a lot quicker.''

McGrady missed Monday's loss to the Celtics with the flu, but had no excuses for Wednesday's performance.

"I think we just have to recommit ourselves for the remainder of the season,'' he said. "I think we have kind of got away from doing what makes us good. We're not rebounding, we're not defending. We're not doing the little things that make us a good team.

"I've got to find some way to reunite the team, inspire my team and tonight I didn't do that.''

The Rockets pulled within nine with 10 minutes to play before Toronto put away the game with 10 straight points - six by Jose Calderon - to stretch their lead to 95-76 with 7:17 to play.

The Raptors stretched their lead to as many as 22 as they finished shooting 57 percent (44-of-77) after hitting 69 percent (29-of-42) in the first half. They made 16 of 20 shots (80 percent) in the second quarter alone.

Houston quickly cut Toronto's 67-47 halftime lead to 70-60 with 7:03 left in the third quarter. The Raptors were only 4-of-16 (25 percent) from the field in the third quarter but still managed to lead 79-68 after three.

Houston shot 54 percent (21-of-39) the first half but Toronto was much better. The Raptors were 5-of-8 on 3s in the first two quarters.

After hitting four straight shots for a 9-0 run in one stretch, the Raptors forged their first 20-point lead at 52-32 with 4:18 left in the second quarter. They scored 40 points in the period, the most by a Rockets opponent in a quarter this season.

The Raptors led 67-47 at the half behind Bargnani's 13 points, including 3-of-3 on 3-pointers.

An 8-0 run in the middle of the first quarter helped Toronto to a 17-8 lead. The Raptors hit 59.1 percent of their shots in the period and led by as many as nine before settling for a 27-21 lead.

Notes: It was the first time this season that Houston did not hold a lead at any point during the game. ... McGrady returned after missing Monday's game against the Celtics with flu-like symptoms. ... Ford played at nearby Willowridge High and the University of Texas. It was his third time back to play in Houston as a pro. ... Bargnani's 81 3-pointers this season, including 4-of-5 Wednesday night, are the most by a 7-foot player this year. ...Toronto is 14-0 when shooting 50 percent or better this season.


Copyright 2006 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited