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Raptors Cant Slow Down Rockets

Box Score | Photo Gallery | Video: Game In Six | Jay Triano | DeMar DeRozan | Jarrett Jack | Hedo Turkoglu | Chris Bosh

October 15, 2009

TORONTO -- Midway through the second quarter Thursday, Raptors newcomer Hedo Turkoglu threaded a beautiful bounce pass through a forest of legs to Andrea Bargnani, who finished with the running jump shot.

Turkoglu made his Air Canada Centre debut in Toronto's 124-112 loss to the Houston Rockets, finishing with nine points and five assists. The Raptors' most significant off-season acquisition played just 22 minutes but showed glimpses of the veteran savvy and all-around game that had attracted the Raptors to the Turkish big man in the first place.

``I'm feeling much better every day, and I think practising with them and playing games is really going to help me out to feel more comfortable on the court, and feeling the atmosphere and getting to know my teammates,'' Turkoglu said. ``I'm happy to be out there with them and hopefully we'll all be in the best shape we can before the season starts.''

Andrea Bargnani had 16 points and five rebounds to top Toronto (2-4), while Chris Bosh added 13 points, DeMar DeRozan and Sonny Weems finished with 11 apiece, and Amir Johnson added 10 points and seven rebounds.

Shane Battier made seven of eight three-point attempts en route to 26 points to top Houston (3-2). Trevor Ariza added 18 points, while Former Raptor Pops Mensah-Bonsu finished with 17 points and seven boards.

The Raptors led by as much as 11 points, but had trouble defending Houston's long-range shooting. The Rockets shot 57 per cent beyond the arc as the Raptors continue to struggle on the defensive end of the floor.

``It was a struggle, it wasn't our best output, and we're going to have to play a lot better on defence if we want to win a lot of basketball games,'' Bosh said. ``Some nights you're going to be off, shot's going to be off, but you can always move your feet and be in the right spot on defence.''

Raptors coach Jay Triano put a positive spin on the perimeter defence saying his players didn't allow the Rockets inside, noting Toronto outscored Houston 62-52 in the paint.

``But they outscored us 39-6 from the three-point line, the next step is getting them off that line,'' Triano said. ``They got in and we protected and they kicked out. We've got to get better at closing out. It's just another step in a long process of trying to get better at that end of the floor.''

Toronto shot just 15 per cent from three-point range.

Houston led 93-89 heading into the fourth and with the second units for both teams on the floor, the Rockets pulled away for an easy win.

Easing into the season after a long summer playing for Turkey, Turkoglu, acquired in a trade with the Orlando Magic, made his Raptors debut in Toronto's 106-90 loss to Boston a night earlier. He left Thursday's game in the third quarter, heading to the locker-room to stretch.

``The fatigue thing after missing a couple of weeks is going to be something we're going to have to work on over the next two weeks,'' Triano said. ``Right now we don't want to maximize his minutes too soon and have him pick up something due to fatigue.''

Bosh is in a similar boat, returning from a hamstring injury suffered before training camp.

``By the end of the pre-season, I'll be fine,'' said Bosh, who played 26 minutes. ``Today I felt really well, I could have gone back in if need be. I think every day is progress.''

The Raptors played without forward Reggie Evans, who's expected to miss the remainder of the pre-season after spraining his ankle during Wednesday's game against Boston. Evans was on crutches Thursday.

Battier drained three consecutive threes en route to 11 points in the first quarter as the Rockets raced out to an eight-point lead. The Raptors rallied and Bargnani's jumper at the buzzer put Toronto ahead 29-28 going into the second.

Bargnani continued to have the hot hand in the second, scoring nine points as the Raptors took an 11-point lead midway through the quarter. The Rockets went on a 15-4 run to take a 59-58 lead, and the Raptors took a 63-62 advantage into the halftime break.

Battier had three more threes in the third as the Rockets retook the lead, going ahead by nine and then leading 93-89 with a quarter left to play.

Notes: The Raptors are home to the Boston Celtics on Sunday, then don't play again until Oct. 23, when they face the Minnesota Timberwolves in Sioux Falls, S.D... The Raptors host the Cleveland Cavaliers in their season opener Oct. 28. . . Tammy Sutton-Brown of Markham, Ont., was at the game, fresh off her appearance in the WNBA finals. Her Indiana Fever lost to the Phoenix Mercury.