WEDNESDAY, 12/21/05 – With all the injuries that have piled up for the Rockets — including two more in their game against the Toronto Raptors (Moochie Norris and Stromile Swift) – the Rockets were going to have to play almost perfect basketball to win Wednesday night…even against the 5-20 Toronto Raptors.
They did themselves no favors by turning the ball over 14 times, T-Mac struggling offensively (7 points on 2-for-11 shooting), their defense giving up 49% shooting (43% from three-point land), only shooting 42% themselves, and making only 12-of-17 free throws. With so little room for error and the Rockets not playing up to the challenge, they lost easily to the Raptors 94-81.
Meanwhile, former Rocket Mike James scored 19 points (50% shooting, 5 assists) and haunted the front office who traded him for Rafer Alston before the season started. With that kind of scoring punch — if he hadn’t been traded –maybe the Rockets would have had a chance tonight, and wouldn’t have lost 8 games this season without T-Mac in the lineup.
To make matters worse, Swift was kicked in the groin by Toronto forward Chris Bosh, forcing Stromile to miss the rest of the game. Replays clearly showed that Bosh didn’t go to great lengths to keep his foot from going upwards as it approached Swift’s groin. I think on plays like that, the refs should be more courageous and call a foul. This was no accident, folks. It didn’t help the Rockets to not have Swift out of the lineup given all of their injuries to their big men (Dikembe Mutombo and Yao). Fortunately Juwan Howard had one of his best games of the season (8-for-14, 21 points), but it wasn’t enough.
The Rockets looked their best in the second quarter when they shot 12-of-20 (60%) and scored 27 points. With the absence of so many players, the Rockets role-playing guards stepped up and showed some heart, like Luther Head (4-of-5 for 9 points), Moochie Norris (4-of-6 for 8 points), and David Wesley (4 points), including a spectacular steal that carried Wesley into the announcers’ table and assist to Head for a layup. The only problem was that the Raptors scored 27 points themselves in the second quarter, giving them a 48-43 lead at halftime.
The second half is when the Raptors pulled away while the Rockets only shot 14-of-41 from the field, with T-Mac going 0-for-5. After making a vow a day earlier that he was going to step up and take on more of the load like he did in Orlando and score lots of points, it’s strange to see him not come through. I guess he’s human after all.
To see the boxscore from the game, click here.