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Raptors Doom Rockets To Latest Road Defeat

December 16, 2012 8:14 pm EST

TORONTO - Some things in life simply defy logic. The NHL’s apparent affinity with season-ending lockouts certainly fits that description. So, too, does the popularity of the movie Ted.

For the Rockets, however, there is perhaps nothing more perplexing than their distaste for playing in Toronto. The city itself is beautiful; a massive melting pot of a metropolis teeming with delightful people, places and events well worth a trip across the border. But the basketball part of that equation – for the Rockets, it’s been nothing short of a nightmare and their road woes within the house of horrors known as the Air Canada Centre continued Sunday afternoon during a 103-96 defeat at the hands of the Raptors.

The loss represented the Rockets’ sixth straight in Toronto and it contained many of the same symptoms that have plagued Houston during a dismal stretch of Canadian disappointments that dates all the way back to 2007. Namely: sluggish, stagnant offense, porous D and a pair of standout performances from Raptors players rising to the occasion. On Sunday it was Jose Calderon and Alan Anderson who stole the show, as the former notched his second career triple-double while the latter matched his career-high with 24 points.

And though nothing should be taken away from Toronto – a struggling team that has now won two in a row for the first time this season – the Rockets returned to the U.S. with a feeling that so many of the wounds they suffered Sunday were self inflicted. Right from the opening tip, Houston had the look of a team that was attempting to run uphill through the snow, and though they eventually rallied back from an early 8-0 deficit, nothing ever seemed to come easily on either end of the floor.

Defensively, communication breakdowns led to too many easy Toronto buckets and even when the Rockets did lock down, the Raptors were able to drain an inordinate number of tough, contested, shot clock-beating jumpers from all over the floor. As a result, Houston’s transition game never could get on track – a big reason why the fast-paced Rockets were outscored in terms of fast break points 22-7 by the far more plodding Raptors.

Despite it all, however, Houston found a way to hang around until the final minute, riding a game-high 28 points from James Harden and a career-high 19 courtesy of Marcus Morris. But Calderon and Anderson appeared to have an answer to every Rockets’ attempt at a rally, dooming Houston to its seventh straight road defeat of the season.

“We just didn’t click tonight,” lamented head coach Kevin McHale. “We didn’t have a lot of movement and we just couldn’t get the stops in a row that we needed. And if we did, it just seemed like we’d miss a bunny here or miss a bunny there, and it just never felt like we got control of the game.

“Early in the game they made some late-clock shots that hurt us, but you have to play through that. Those can’t be things that affect all other areas. Teams are going to make those shots. There’s a lot of opportunity for us to improve and get better and we’ve got to.”

And 1s: The Rockets flew to New York City immediately after Sunday’s contest, as a Monday night date with the red-hot New York Knicks awaits them. That game is obviously generating a lot of interest on both a local and national level as it represents Jeremy Lin’s initial return to Madison Square Garden since signing with the Rockets as a free agent in July.

Not surprisingly, the 24-year-old point guard is looking forward to returning to the place where he came an international phenomenon earlier this year, but he also made it quite clear he’s eager to put the past behind him.

“I’m definitely ready to get it over with just because I think in some sense there will be some closure,” he said following Sunday’s game. “This will probably be the first return back to MSG and there will never be another first return. So we’re going to go out there and play and have some fun and enjoy it and move on.

“I’m not going to try to guess what’s going to happen because I have no idea. Once the game starts I know I’m going to be focused on basketball. If I were to be realistic there will probably be some nostalgia and reminiscing and I’m thankful for those times because those were some great times, but at the same time it’s the next chapter.”

Lin also took a moment to address his own play and that of the team as they pass the quarter-mark of the season. Always his own harshest critic, Lin did not hide his disappointment at his performance thus far.

“I think I’m not doing close to what I’m capable of doing,” he said, “and it’s a matter of figuring out how to get myself to play more like myself within the system of everything that’s going on with the change of scenery. I’ll always be my harshest critic but I’ll go ahead and say it: I’m doing terrible.

“I think it just takes time and getting comfortable. The biggest thing for all of us as a team is just comfort – when you’re comfortable everything’s easy, everything flows and right now we don’t have that exactly. We’ll get there, though. We’ve shown glimpses where everything is perfect and free flowing and everything’s comfortable, and then we’ll have ones like today where it’s just not quite there and it’s just a matter of battling through the adversity so we can get everybody more on the same page more consistently. We’re just going through a lot of change.

“But our team, we have high character guys and we all care and we all want the right thing. And when you have that, it’s just a matter of time.”

QUOTES

KEVIN MCHALE

We just didn’t play well enough – didn’t play well enough together. The ball was too sticky on offense and made too many mistakes defensively. Their wings came out and made some big shots; they ran pretty free off of pin-downs. We just, defensively, never really got locked in.

We didn’t turn it over tonight, but they had 13 blocked shots and we probably had six or seven layups get blocked then we missed a bunch of other ones. We can’t afford to miss cheap, chippie ones. It just felt like we couldn’t get anything going.

We just didn’t click tonight. We didn’t have a lot of movement and we just couldn’t get the stops in a row that we needed. And if we did, it just seemed like we’d miss a bunny here or miss a bunny there, and it just never felt like we got control of the game.

(Raps hitting many shots to beat shot clock)

That hurt us, especially early in the game they made some late-clock shots that hurt us, but you have to play through that. Those can’t be things that affect all other areas. Teams are going to make those shots. There’s a lot of opportunity for us to improve and get better and we’ve got to.

JEREMY LIN

(what kept you from repeating performance from back in February today?)

If I could turn it on like a switch that easy, I’d obviously turn it on, but that’s not how it works. Every team is different. There are so many things that affect everything, you talk about chemistry and flow and systems, belief in each other, belief in teammates and executing the coach’s strategies – there’s so many things that go into it. I’m just focused on this season, our team and what we have to do to get better.

(going back to MSG tomorrow – I know you’re excited but is there a part of you, too, that’s looking forward to just getting that over with?):

Definitely. I’m definitely ready to get it over with just because I think in some sense there will be some closure. This will probably be the first return back to MSG and there will never be another first return. So we’re going to go out there and play and have some fun and enjoy it and move on.

(what do you anticipate feeling tomorrow?)

That’s one of those things where I’m not going to try to guess what’s going to happen because I have no idea. Once the game starts I know I’m going to be focused on basketball. If I were to be realistic there will probably be some nostalgia and reminiscing and thankful for those times because those were some great times, but at the same time it’s the next chapter.

(how would you assess your play so far this season?)

Terrible. I think I’m not doing close to what I’m capable of doing and it’s a matter of figuring out how to get myself to play more like myself within the system of everything that’s going on with the change of scenery. I’ll be my harshest critic but I’ll go ahead and say it: I’m doing terrible.

I think it just takes time and getting comfortable. The biggest thing for all of us as a team is just comfort – when you’re comfortable everything’s easy, everything flows and right now we don’t have that exactly. We’ll get there, though. We’ve shown glimpses where everything is perfect and free flowing and everything’s comfortable, and then we’ll have ones like today where it’s just not quite there and it’s just a matter of battling through the adversity so we can get everybody more on the same page more consistently. We’re just going through a lot of change.

But our team, we have high character guys and we all care and we all want the right thing. And when you have that, it’s just a matter of time.

CHANDLER PARSONS

Yeah, right from the get go we didn’t move the ball well, we turned the ball over, our defense on pin-downs was terrible – just all those things add up to us getting off to a slow start and in the third quarter, the same thing. For us to be competing in games even playing like that is crazy. We have to come out and play much better than that at the start of games and halves.

(why is that such a challenge?)

I don’t know because we don’t have any selfish guys. It’s not like people are gunning for their own – that’s not the reason. For some reason we’re stagnant and sometimes we’re inconsistent and we’ve got to change that.

JAMES HARDEN

They got off to a good start, especially in that third quarter 8-0. Then beginning of the third quarter, same thing. We allow ourselves to get down and then we have to fight back.

(offense disjointed)

Guys weren’t making shots tonight, including myself, so I just tried to get to the basket and force some guys to collapse and try to make plays. We’ve got to be more consistent with what we do.

MARCUS MORRIS

(Was there confusion on some of the switches in the third quarter?)

Sometimes, early on we were switching some things. I thought that was still the plan. It was just bad communication on both of our parts, my part and the guard’s part. Things that we need to fix in practice.

(What was it that Ed Davis was doing in the third quarter?)

Mainly slipping. I think that he scored over me maybe one time, but probably just slipping to the basket. The point guard (Jose) Calderon made great passes. The point guard was finding him, just off of our mistakes.

RAPTORS HEAD COACH DWANE CASEY

You came out on top of one of those close games…

The key was that we did not turn the ball over.  We only gave up one three in the second half.  That was a change in the game.  Our guys did a good job adjusting and running them off the three-point line.  It is a team win.  Everyone that walked on the floor shared the ball.  We had 29 assists.  We are getting back to the way we want to play as a team. 

 (Jose Calderon’s game…)

He is a solid professional.  I love him.  He is going to win a lot of basketball games for you.  He did a good job defensively on Jeremy Lin.  Amir Johnson and Ed Davis also did a heck of a job especially in the pick and roll situations.  

(What Alan (Anderson) gave you offensively)

Alan (Anderson) did a heck of a job.  Anytime you are physical on a guy like (James) Harden it wears on you.  I thought he wore him down.  The main thing is that he made his free throws.  By numbers we had to go to him.  He did a heck of a job.  I am happy for him. 

(How big of an experience is it for (Terrence) Ross to get these big time minutes?)

It is huge.  He played well defensively.  He did a good job on (Carlos) Delfino.  But it is a team win.  We need to continue to win.  No one is satisfied.  I am not satisfied.  We have to continue to build, improve, and use this as a process.  This is a process with the guys that we have in uniform. 

(Were you tempted to go back to Ed (Davis)?)

Amir (Johnson) did a heck of a job, and he was in the flow of the game.  Down the stretch, I thought that Amir (Johnson) would be better for switching onto (James) Harden. 

DeMar DeRozan

(Thoughts on defending James Harden)

A scorer like that you have to make everything tough for him. Don’t make anything easy or allow him to get into a comfortable rhythm. That’s what we tried to do today.

JOSE CALDERON

(Thoughts on winning two games in a row)

I think someone told me after the game that April was the last time. I think the team deserves these kinds of wins. We’ve been working so hard, practicing so hard and we were trying to do a lot of things. I know it’s been tough times and we couldn’t get wins but this feels great.

(How does it feel to get the triple-double?)

It was nice because it came with a win. I’m really happy.

(Thoughts on the play of Alan Anderson…)

He’s great and we’ve been missing him. I know people don’t know a lot about him because he arrived at the end of last season and he’s been hurt this season. He’s a tough guy. He can play defence and he can score the ball.

(Thoughts on the positive team emotion)

It was great. I’m feeling really good with my teammates and they respect me a lot. I’ve just made up my mind to be the most professional player in the NBA. I don’t know if I’m going to be on the court or not, but I want this team to win.

ALAN ANDERSON

(Thoughts on the game)

It felt good. Even the first game back my shot was pretty decent. My game shots and my practice shots are like night and day. Even though the shots in the first game didn’t go in, they still felt good. I’m never going to pass up a shot. I’m still a scorer, but I have to come in and be aggressive.

(Thoughts on defending James Harden)

James is a tough cover. He has the ball almost every time down the court. He’s in isolation, he’s getting ball screens, he’s shooting threes and mid-range shots. With a player like that it’s hard to stop him one-on-one because he has the ball so much. You just have to make every possession and every shot he takes a tough one.