Raptors torch Rockets 0
Raptors guard Jose Calderon defends against Rockets guard Goran Dragic at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ont., March 7, 2012. (FRED THORNHILL/Reuters)
It was after the Memphis loss that Dwane Casey talked about the basketball gods eventually giving the Raptors a break.
That break came last night in the form of a less-than-100% Kyle Lowry and the Raptors took full advantage with a 116-98 cakewalk.
The Rockets extra-physical point guard wasn't feeling quite up to par and it wasn't just the fatigue of having played an overtime game the night before in Boston either. He wasn't feeling all that well before the game.
Lowry, who steam rolled the Raps a little over a week ago in Houston, is normally an early arrival at the arena, preferring to get some shots up early much like Celtics veteran Ray Allen.
Often times that means coming over in a cab by himself, but not Wednesday. Lowry not only didn't make his early appearance, he didn't shoot at all.
The Raptors came in fired up for Lowry, who went off for 26 in a three-point win over Toronto last Tuesday. Casey talked in the pre-game about putting "a man and a half" on him just to contain the Rockets main scoring threat.
"He had a tough night (Tuesday) so I'm sure he's going to come out with his high beams on," Casey said. "Rondo gave him a little trouble but we're going to have a man and a half on him to make sure he doesn't go off."
Lowry was rather quiet, for him, in the first half with nine points and quite a few less forays into the paint.
He picked things up in the third quarter somewhat but it was not the Lowry who torched the Raps a week ago.
DeMar DeRozan, whose almost infamous tweet of "straight bull%$#" followed a tough night in Houston that included a seat on the bench for the entire fourth quarter, came back strong against the Rockets with a team-high 23.
Lowry finished up with 16 on 4-for-8 shooting. He only played 25 minutes.
Not a terrible night by any stretch but well below what the Raptors were expecting of him.
Even without Lowry at full speed, the Rockets did manage to cut a 17-point deficit down to four midway through the fourth quarter, before the Raps, with some prodding from Casey and his staff, found another gear and pulled away for the win.
"A veteran team like that, you never relax in those situations but I was happy the way our guys bounced back, made a run, got back into it defensively, got out in the open floor and ran and made good decisions."
Now 39 games into the season, Casey has a pretty good feel for what he has and what he doesn't and without mentioning any names, gave a pretty good indication of what he is going to be looking for in the off-season when Bryan Colangelo taps into that $17 million or so he has at his disposal in free agency.
First and foremost Casey wants guys who knows the league and aren't shy when things get physical.
"Experience along with the young guys coming in is going to be important," Casey said. "I don't think we can bring in a lot of young guys in next season and expect to make the big steps that we want to make next year. I think we'll be looking for experienced guys, guys who are tough, battle tested and been through the wars, I think that is important and I know Bryan has his eye on some guys who are going to be free agents next year."
So forget the young improving guys. Casey already has those. He wants tried and tested.
"Mostly toughness and shooting are two of the keys," he said. "We have a big man coming in, we have some perimeter players that are going through the natural progression of improvement with DeMar (DeRozan) getting stronger and bigger. James Johnson's improvement. We've got some pretty good pieces as far as that's concerned."
GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN
Anthony Carter's tenure with the Raptors didn't last a whole season but as far as Casey was concerned, Carter left his mark.
"Anthony did a great job for us," Casey said. "I don't want to diminish that. He set the tone in training camp. Those great defensive nights we had in training camp he and Jamaal (Magloire) and Rasual (Butler) all set the tone and were exactly what we needed."
Carter's departure frees up a spot on the roster but there are no immediate plans to use it on anything in particular.
The 58 points at the half was a season high for the Raptors ... With Carter gone, Gary Forbes will get the third point guard minutes. Forbes had a short tryout earlier in the year but Casey admitted throwing him in there against the Boston Celtics with Rondo and Avery Bradley swarming him might not have been the right thing to do ... Both Jose Calderon and Linas Kleiza bounced back from sub-par outings on Wednesday night. Calderon was back to his superlative ways with a 17-point, 12-assist night while Kleiza filled up the stat sheet in the fourth quarter finishing with 19 ... James Johnson's minutes were limited after he got kneed in the thigh early in the game. His condition will be assessed again at practice on Thursday.