The Houston Rockets’ 88-85 victory over the Toronto Raptors Tuesday night was sloppy, unseemly, and overly close. In other words, exactly the type of contest Kyle Lowry thrives in.
Lowry led Houston with 26 points, each one valuable, and a perfect 4-4 mark from behind the arc. Such a pristine offensive effort was especially notable on a night when Houston’s players couldn’t seem to shoot, rebound, or string together multiple successful possessions. Kevin McHale’s bunch is fortunate to have opened up the second half of the NBA season versus Andrea Bargnani-less Toronto; a stiffer opponent would have taken advantage of the Rockets’ post-break fog. But these are the battles Houston needs to win in order to secure a playoff bid — they are currently 21-14 and occupy the Western Conference’s fifth seed — and Lowry continues to deliver with backbreaking triples and fearlessly physical forays to the hoop on a nightly basis. The Rockets are a rudderless ship without their point guard leader, and fans should be thankful they don’t have to comprehend a present without him — just look at the offensive production from Lowry’s teammates tonight to understand his value.
Here are some post-game grades:
Offense: The offense deserves lower, but since Houston nabbed the win, a B- is granted. Outside of the aforementioned Lowry, the only Rocket to shoot at least 50 percent from the field was Samuel Dalembert, who contributed 10 points on a variety of close shots around the basket. Kevin Martin shot a horrific 3-15, including one of six from three land, and Chandler Parsons made only a single trey out of four attempts. The bench combined to shoot 7-24. It was bad, folks.
But to their credit, the Rockets stepped up, as they have all season, with baskets in the clutch. Parsons’ lone three came in the closing minutes, when Houston was struggling to fortify a late two-point lead. Martin drained 7-8 free throws. Courtney Lee had a raucous tip dunk. And, of course, Lowry combined a three with a whirling dervish drive and some free throws for good measure to build the smallest of separations down the stretch. It was an ugly shooting performance, but Houston made buckets when they counted and displayed a resilient will to win. Nice qualities to have when the talent isn’t present to take a night off in the effort department.
Defense: The rebounding was bad — the Rockets were “out-glassed” by 10 — but the overall team defense warrants a B+. Especially on the last sequence, when the Raptors had an opportunity to tie the game on the last shot, and Houston swallowed any semblance of breathing room Toronto’s shooters had. Linas Klieza would brick the shot, a forced heave with a hand squarely planted in his face. Toronto would finish 2-17 from downtown, a key number for a team of international snipers who rely on heavily on the trey.