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Thursday March 8, 2012 1:06 AM

House Of Horrors

Raptors continue to riddle Rockets in Toronto, win 116-98

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com




TORONTO, ON - The Rockets hoped that this time would be different. That their own personal house of horrors known as the Air Canada Centre would yield a far more palatable result for them than it had for the previous four years.

Hope, however, can do little to bring about real change without sufficient effort to back it. To dream is one thing; to put forth the blood, sweat and tears required to actually do, quite another. When the Rockets sleepwalked through the first two and a half quarters Wednesday night, they effectively sealed their fate; the end result as familiar as it was frustrating. Another thrashing at the hands of the Raptors. Five straight seasons of Toronto futility.

Five, in fact, was the worrisome number of the night, with the Rockets 116-98 defeat also representing their first straight road loss and fifth consecutive defeat overall. More troubling still was the reality that Houston’s current freefall couldn’t coax the club into producing an effort worthy of a team desperate to snap out of a funk that’s now seen the Rockets slip from fourth in the West all the way to ninth in the span of a week.

“We have not been good since the All-Star break,” stated Rockets Head Coach Kevin McHale after the game. “We’ve really got to get ourselves together. We’re going through a really rough stretch right now, We’ve lost a couple tough games, came in here tonight and just got it handed to us. We’ve got to figure out what kind of team we’re going to be. We’ve got to go out there and just keep on battling hard. We’ve just got to find a way to have more defensive effort and more defensive energy.”

Without question, all the problems Houston faced Wednesday night began on the defensive side of the ball. Despite facing a Toronto team that came into the game ranked in the league’s bottom five in terms of offensive efficiency, Houston conceded a seemingly endless stream of wide-open looks to the Raptors right from the outset. Toronto kicked off the contest by hitting nine of its first 12 shots and never really cooled off, finishing the game with a shooting percentage near 60 percent.

Credit the Raptors, sure, for both their precise execution and superb shot making. But outside of a 12-minute second half stretch that saw Houston finally lock-in, get some stops and, as a result, slice its deficit from 17 to four, the Rockets made life all too easy for Toronto. Far too often Houston’s players seemed a step slow or caught off guard, making mistakes they deemed inexcusable after the fact.

“There’s really no explanation for that,” said Chandler Parsons, one of the few Rockets who excelled Wednesday night, tallying 19 points to go along with three steals. “Honestly it’s embarrassing with what we’re playing for and what our goals are. To come out here and just get blasted by this team is unacceptable. We’ve got to take ownership and man up and realize what we’re doing wrong because this is miserable for everybody.

“Losing five games in a row is terrible. We all hate the way we’re feeling right now so we’ve got to do whatever we can to change it to get back to winning ways and play the way we were playing.”

The Rockets will have two days to rediscover their mojo before facing their latest back-to-back; a two-game set that begins with a date with New Jersey Saturday night preceding a clash against the Cavaliers on Sunday. Long, hard hours on the practice floor will undoutbedly be part of the plan to get back on track. Because the Rockets realize this much: Hoping for a different result is fine; but only hard work can transform that dream into reality.

QUOTES

KEVIN MCHALE

We were terrible. Those guys came down, they got pin-downs, they got separation. We just started off with (no energy). This a team that has struggled to score this year. They had 58 points at half, 28 points in the first quarter and we just didn’t have any defensive focus for a long period. In that third quarter we got some stops and tried to make a game out of it. They had a lot of life tonight. It just looked like our guys were a half step slow all night long.

(back-to-back have anything to do with it?): There’s no excuse for that. We’ve got to play harder than that. I mean, we’re playing basketball. Were not doing an eight-hour shift or 12-hour shift in the mines; we’re playing basketball. Basketball is fun. You’ve just got to go out there and get after it. We just looked a half step slow tonight. There were loose balls out there and we didn’t get any of them and we never could get enough stops put together. They played very well – give them credit. They’ve been really competing and losing some close games and they played very, very hard tonight. But we just were a step slow on most stuff we were doing and that just caught up to us. We got it down to four but then they hit three or four shots and the air just went out of the balloon.

We have not been good since the All-Star break. We’ve really got to get ourselves together. We’re going through a really rough stretch right now, We’ve lost a couple tough games, came in here tonight and just got it handed to us. We’ve got to figure out what kind of team we’re going to be. We’ve got to go out there and just keep on battling hard. We’ve just got to find a way to have more defensive effort and more defensive energy.

(on Terrence Williams): Terrence was out there trying, doing stuff. When you get behind I think we press. We try to do too many homerun things as a team – not just Terrence. As a team we do that, so we’ve got to get better at that.

CHANDLER PARSONS

(how to explain the team playing so poorly): There’s really no explanation for that. Honestly it’s embarrassing with what we’re playing for and what are goals are. To come out here and just get blasted by this team is unacceptable. We’ve got to take ownership and man up and realize what we’re doing wrong because this is miserable for everybody. Losing five games in a row is terrible. We all hate the way we’re feeling right now so we’ve got to do whatever we can to change it to get back to winning ways and play the way we were playing.

TERRENCE WILLIAMS

(on how he felt out there): For what it was, I felt great. I slowed down more so than the Clipper game. I actually felt fine out there.

(how to explain this sort of team effort): I really don’t know. Coach said that some guys were playing hard but overall as a team we weren’t playing hard. To lose four straight, you would think that everybody is going to come out and give 110 percent. An outsider could make up excuses and say it was because we got in late or it was a back-to-back but we’re professionals, we’re used to playing back-to-backs and getting in late. I really don’t know why we played like that for the first two and a half quarters.

LUIS SCOLA

(Why has it been difficult to crank up the defense in the first half?): I don’t know, I really don’t know. I don’t think it’s the first half or the second half I just think that it is an overall problem. It’s not a one quarter part of the game problem. We are just playing bad plain and simple.

(Is it energy or physical effort?): I don’t think that it is just energy. Some games it is definitely energy, but some other games the energy was there like the Clippers or Boston and we still lost those. I think energy is one of the problems, I don’t think it is the only problem. If you don’t have it every game it is a big problem. The games that we have energy we are closer but we still have problems, so it is not the only one.

(Are you guys feeling the back-to-backs?): No, putting this game behind a back-to-back is a weak excuse. I won’t even talk about that.

TORONTO RAPTORS HEAD COACH DWANE CASEY

Thoughts on Houston cutting lead to six points…
I thought they had us where they wanted us. With a veteran team like that, you never relax in those situations. I was happy the way our guys bounced back, made a run, got back into it defensively and got out on the open floor and ran. I got up on our guys near the end because I thought we threw it around when we should have been playing smart, milking it and executing more. Playing with a lead is one of the hardest things to do in this league.

Thoughts on Leandro Barbosa coming up big when lead was cut to six…
He did and I thought LK (Linas Kleiza) made some big shots. DeMar (DeRozan) found a pocket and did a good job using screens. We did a good job tonight setting screens and I was really happy to see that. There were a lot of positive things. One negative was that we put them on the free throw line 44 times and that’s way too many times. We were playing more with our hands instead of our feet.

JOSE CALDERON (17 points, 12 assists)

Did Houston seem a step slow tonight?
I think we played really good from the beginning. We tried to jump on them right away because we knew they had a tough game last night. We owe this team; we were so close in Houston, so we really wanted to get a win tonight.

Thoughts on the fourth quarter…
I think we kept our composure and stayed relaxed and confident. We’ve made mistakes in other games when we’ve had the lead, so I think today we were calmer and we kept playing the way we were playing. We executed better and that’s why at the end we won the game.

DEMAR DEROZAN (25 points, four assists)

Thoughts on your better offensive numbers the past few games…
I’m just more comfortable at both ends. I think throughout this whole season, it’s been about learning from the defensive end and the offensive end. I think we’ve got it going and I’m out there just feeling comfortable and playing my game.

Thoughts on the win tonight…
It always feels good to get a win, especially how we’ve been losing these close games lately that we definitely should be pulling out. We needed this one tonight before we go out on road. We just want to try and make something happen, especially with Andrea (Bargnani) coming back.

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