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Rockets pull away as Raptors’ bench falls to Earth

Rockets pull away as Raptors’ bench falls to Earth
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Unable to even sustain what the starters had done in erasing a deficit as large as 22 points, the backups faltered in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter at the Scotiabank Arena on Tuesday in what turned into a 107-95 loss to the Houston Rockets.

A resurgent starting group, which was far from blameless in Toronto getting behind, had outscored the Rockets 34-14 in the third quarter to take a two-point lead into the fourth.

But with starters getting necessary rest, the Rockets went on a 25-9 run in the first seven minutes of the fourth to take back control of the game.

“We let ‘em shake free,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said.

The backup backcourt of Jeremy Lin and Norm Powell struggled all night, going a combined 3-for-11 from the field while being ineffective defensively. OG Anunoby was only marginally better and Marc Gasol was unable to get things going with the subs as Toronto dropped its second game in a row.

James Harden led Houston with 35 points but needed to take 30 shots to get them.

Kawhi Leonard led the Raptors with 26 points but Kyle Lowry struggled, going 0-for-5 from three-point range and finishing with just eight points.

“We’ve just got to go out there and play harder and move the ball, share the ball better and get back on defence,” Lowry said. “That second unit, whoever that group is, they’ve got to continue to follow the game plan and just play harder, honestly.”

And coach Nick Nurse sometimes just goes with his gut feeling.

“I like to say that I feel like the team does, and I know that when I woke up this morning and didn’t have to rush in here to prepare a shootaround, it felt good,” he said before the game. “I’m hoping the guys feel the same.”

The Raptors came out and played one of their worst halves in weeks, so perhaps shootarounds will return regularly.

Toronto scored just 37 points in the first, the lowest offensive production they have had in a half all season. It was also the second fewest points the Rockets have allowed in a half this season.

To borrow a phrase from former Raptors coach Dwane Casey, Siakam “told on himself” last summer when he worked out with, among others, some Houston players in California.

“It’s funny because I think this summer some of our players played with him in L.A. and came back and said ‘Man, that guy is good,’ ” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said before Tuesday’s game. “So our guys knew it. And he’s proved it.”
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