Frustrating: This was a terrible performance by the Raptors who were a no-show to start, got outworked all night, couldn’t execute their offense, committed far too many errors on defense, never once held a lead at any point, and squandered a gift at the end to perhaps salvage the result.
Awful: Kenneth Faried, who was bought out by the Nets and signed for the veteran’s minimum, straight-up punked his Raptors counterparts. He poured in 21 points and 14 rebounds off pure hustle, and was also a disruptive force on defense.
No-show: Faried’s work rate stood in stark contrast to the sluggish showings by Serge Ibaka and Greg Monroe. Ibaka recovered from a lazy first half in which he was consistently a beat late on defense by showing more effort on the defensive glass and finishing with a double-double.
Unplayable: On the other hand, Monroe was flat-out benched after a miserable sequence in which he flubbed a layup, then allowed an uncontested layup the other way, before losing a rebound to Austin Rivers on the ensuing possession. He has been abysmal over the past three games.
Beat: The Raptors actually had a fairly decent game plan against James Harden, who shot just 9-of-25 from the field. Toronto’s defenders stayed parallel to Harden while denying him of his favored left hand, contested his step-back threes with length, and forced him to get his points going to the basket. Danny Green was particularly effective against Harden.
Muzzled: Toronto looked unprepared for Houston’s switching defense. That scheme neutralized the pick-and-roll, and the Raptors were left to create most of their offense in isolation. Credit the Rockets for digging in and playing tremendous one-on-one defense, but the Raptors also just didn’t have another player besides Kawhi Leonard who could get a shot.
Missing: Kyle Lowry needs to be that secondary creator, but he shrank as the game went on. Lowry failed to beat Faried off the dribble in isolation early in the game, and he just played passively from that point onward. He passed up open looks and he was content to play off the ball, even during stretches in the fourth quarter where he shared the floor with far inferior bench players.
Gift: The Rockets did everything within their power to blow it at the end. They rattled off a comedy of errors — throwing passes out of bounds, stepping on the baseline, failing to box out — and the Raptors capitalized on every mistake with a three. Toronto had the ball down two points with 15 seconds left.
Moronic: All Nick Nurse could muster after the timeout was yet another static isolation for Leonard. He had Norman Powell set a ball screen to trigger a switch onto Harden, but the Raptors ran the action so slowly that all Leonard ended up with was contested a fadeaway airball.
Curious: Nurse also chose to leave Delon Wright on the bench for the entire game while relying instead on the likes of C.J. Miles and Pat McCaw. Wright wasn’t listed on the injury report, so it’s unclear as to what disagreement led to his benching.