Bargnani Leads Total Team Effort In Win Over Rockets
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TORONTO (CP) -- The Toronto Raptors have won back-to-back games for the first time this season and they have their bench to thank.
Led by Linas Kleiza's 17 points, the Raptors got 46 points from four reserves Friday on their way to a 106-96 victory over the Houston Rockets.
``I thought the bench was outstanding,'' Raptors coach Jay Triano said. ``I thought our bench was the difference in the game, 46 points from those four guys coming in.''
The Rockets bench finished with 11 points.
Starting centre Andrea Bargnani led the Raptors (4-9) with 26 points on the heels of his season-high 30-point performance in Wednesday's win in Philadelphia.
But his effort could easily have been wasted without Kleiza, Jose Calderon (10 points, seven assists), Amir Johnson (10 points, two blocked shots) and David Andersen (10 points, eight rebounds).
The four reserves accounted for 17 of the Raptors 31 fourth-quarter points when they took command of the game and Johnson contributed a big blocked shot that set up a Sonny Weems dunk with 34.5 seconds left in the game to stretch Toronto's lead to 102-94.
``They were aggressive, they were better defensively,'' Triano said of his reserves. ``They turned the game for us. It turned in the second quarter and it turned in the fourth quarter.''
DeMar DeRozan chipped in with 15 for the Raptors.
Kevin Martin led Houston with 31 points, Luis Scola added 19 and Shane Battier had 14.
The success of the bench was no surprise to Kleiza.
``We have an even team,'' Kleiza said. ``Whoever comes in and has a good night and just steps up that's what it's all about. Whoever has it going the coach plays those people. It's good to get a win, good to get a win at home.''
The Raptors didn't get to the free-throw line at all in the first half but they made 20 of 30 of them in the second half as they played more aggressively.
``Our goal against this team was to try to be aggressive by taking the ball to the basket and get Andrea looks down low and inside,'' Triano said. ``We had DeMar and Sonny drive the ball when they got a chance, post-up Kleiza when we had a chance. When you do that kind of thing you can get to the free-throw line.''
``Coach Jay said to try to stay away from foul trouble and pound the ball inside and drive,'' Johnson said. ``We took the ball against their bigs and we knew they weren't shot blockers so we took advantage of that.''
The Raptors had a one-point lead after three quarters and increased that to 10 with just over five minutes to play with Kleiza scoring seven of Toronto's first 16 points in the fourth.
The Rockets (3-9) chipped away and trailed by four when Bargnani hit a jumper with 3:34 left to give the Raptors a six-point edge. Kyle Lowry came back with a three-pointer for Houston, but Bargnani answered again as Toronto led 95-90.
Calderon made a driving layup with 43.9 seconds left to give Toronto a 100-94 lead that all but clinched it. The dunk by Weems added the exclamation point.
The Raptors led by eight at the half but Houston hung tough, with Martin's three-pointer at 9:30 of the third cutting Toronto's advantage to three.
After an exchange of baskets, Martin hit another three to tie the game and Battier also made a three to put the Rockets ahead 58-55 midway through the quarter.
The Rockets led by as many as six, but the Raptors came back to regain the lead 75-74 heading to the fourth. Bargnani hit a running layup with 38.7 seconds left in the quarter on a pass from Calderon and sunk the ensuing free throw.
The Raptors led 28-27 after the first quarter and held an eight-point lead with 8:45 left in the second after Andersen hit a three-pointer.
``We started off well in the first quarter but we just stopped scoring,'' said Rockets head coach Sid Adelman. ``We played well in the third quarter and we just keep having those periods for whatever reason, during the last one minute and 30 seconds of the third quarter, where they scored seven straight points on us.''
Notes: Weems made his fifth consecutive start and scored seven of the Raptors first 11 points but picked up his fifth foul early in the fourth. He finished with 13 points... Raptors guard Leandro Barbosa missed his sixth successive game with a left shoulder strain and is listed as day-to-day. He left after the third quarter of the Nov. 8 loss to Golden State with the injury. ... The Rockets were without C Yao Ming who has not played since Nov. 10 because of a mild sprain on his left ankle. ... Toronto hosts Boston on Sunday afternoon.