Raptors Can’t Hold Big Halftime Lead In Loss To Rockets

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The Toronto Raptors put together their strongest half of their summer league session, but still dropped a 93-77 decision to the Houston Rockets on Wednesday afternoon in Las Vegas.

Despite leading by as many as 29 points, the Raptors were unable to hold off a furious run by the Rockets in the second half and missed out on a match up with Andrew Wiggins and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday afternoon.

Thanks to a hot start from Dwight Buycks (24 points on 10-for-16 field goals), the Raptors jumped out to a quick lead and held a 31-17 advantage after the opening quarter. They continued to roll in the second and took what should have been a commanding 56-30 lead into halftime. Instead, the Raptors came out flat in the third and could not right the ship.

“It was very frustrating,” Buycks said. “We came in this locker room and we talked about, ‘Let’s hold this lead. Let’s not come out dry in the second half’ and we all were in it. We all don’t want to and we come out and we’re dry. We missed shots. We came out and let them score on us. We missed shots and it affected us on the defensive end.”

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Things unravelled quickly after the break as the team struggled to put points on the board. Houston outscored Toronto 27-5 in a disastrous third quarter.

“I took the early timeout just trying to settle them down, trying to prepare them for that, but it just snowballed on us,” Raptors summer league coach Jesse Mermuys said. “It was one of those things, you could see it coming. You watch it happening and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. I subbed guys, tried to get guys in to change the momentum and that tide that was coming at us. For whatever reason, we could not stop that momentum.

“They started getting easy baskets, we started fouling and that’s what happens when you’re not strong with the basketball. Turnovers kill you in this league.”

It was more of the same in the fourth, with the Rockets continuing to score at will and the Raptors unable to get anything to go. The Rockets scored 36 points in the fourth quarter, an impressive feat, considering summer league quarters are just 10 minutes long.

“That’s why coaches are always so uptight when you have a lead,” Mermuys said. “You leave that locker room up 29 and you feel like you’re in trouble. It’s just one of those things, it’s the way it goes. They’re young guys, you try to implore them what’s about to come at them without getting them too nervous or shaking them.”

The Rockets scored 35 points off of Toronto’s 26 turnovers. Eight came from point guard Buycks, five from big man Hassan Whiteside.

Rookie Bruno Caboclo scored 12 points on 3-for-7 shooting in a bounce-back game after a rough outing in Monday’s loss against the Mavericks. Whiteside added seven points and 10 rebounds.

Donatas Montiejunas and Isaiah Canaan led the Rockets with 18 points apiece.

Although every game in Las Vegas is a teaching opportunity for the Raptors coaching staff, Mermuys was especially frustrated after Wednesday’s loss.

““It’s tough,” Mermuys said. “I’m extremely disappointed that we didn’t win that game. I wanted those guys, because we had such a good practice yesterday, and we had a good shootaround today, I wanted those guys to have some success and feel like the work was going to pay off for them. That didn’t happen and I’m extremely disappointed for them.”

Despite the loss, Buycks wanted everyone to know that the team came into the game with the right mindset and have been treating summer league like a mini-training camp.

“The focus for all of us was serious,” Buycks said. “Of course we’re losing games, but everybody had the mindset of coming out here and giving it what they can. I can say everybody was all in.”

The Raptors will play one more Summer League game in the consolation round agains the LA Clippers on Friday at 6 PM ET.

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