Friday, July 31, 2015

Resilient Raptors hold on for win

TORONTO—The clock was ticking down and the Toronto Raptors were clutching a one-point lead.
And Kyle Lowry, the player who so often has carried them down the stretch, was in the locker-room getting treatment for a sore and swollen knee.

But with DeMar DeRozan leading the way, the Raptors showed the resiliency that has become part of their makeup this season en route to a 107-103 victory over the Houston Rockets last night.
“Every win is great for us right now for what we’re trying to do, especially with Kyle out and Amir [Johnson] out,” said Raptors’ coach Dwane Casey.
“Hopefully it gives our guys some confidence . . . guys who stepped in, to go where we need to go.”
Johnson missed all but the first three minutes with an ankle injury.
DeRozan poured in 29 points and was key in the fourth quarter—doling out a couple of assists and uncharacteristically taking a charge.
“Those are the winning plays that he’s learning to make and he’s making now, other than just scoring,” Casey noted.
“He’s doing a great job of scoring but there’s so many other things when he plays those kinds of minutes, especially now with Kyle out.
“He’s got to do a lot more,” Casey stressed.
When he somehow cut his finger with just over three minutes to go, he continued to play despite the blood that was smeared across his shorts.
“I kind of split the middle of my hand, the webbing of my hand, I didn’t even notice,” said DeRozan, who estimated he had four or five stitches.
“I looked down and my whole hand was soaked.”
Jonas Valanciunas and Greivis Vasquez added 15 points apiece while Terrence Ross finished with 14 for the Raptors (43-32).
James Harden scored 26 points to top the Rockets (49-25), who were missing Dwight Howard (ankle) for the third-consecutive game.
Chandler Parsons added 20.
Lowry missed the game after a hard knee-on-knee collision with LeBron James in the Raptors’ 93-83 loss to Miami two nights earlier.
X-rays were negative, so there was no structural damage.
Johnson played the first three minutes but headed to the locker-room with a sore right ankle.
But despite the absence of not only two of the team’s top contributors but arguably its two hardest workers, the Raptors weren’t going to let this game slip away.
With seven games to go, each one is meaningful as the Raptors fight for a favourable opponent in the post-season and home-court advantage.
Vasquez, who started at point guard, said it’s no surprise that DeRozan and the Raptors stepped up so well in Lowry’s absence.
“It’s not hidden that [DeRozan and Lowry] are our leaders,” he noted. “We go as they go.
“And everybody else understands that.
“This is why we have a healthy locker-room, we’re not fighting egos, we know what’s going on,” Vasquez added.
“And whenever one of those guys goes down, we’ve got their back. That’s what this team is all about.”

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