Two straight good games from Andrea Bargnani, two straight wins for the Raptors. Bargnani, fresh off running wild against the Sixers on Wednesday, had much of the same success at home against the Rockets tonight, scoring 26 points and making some clutch buckets to key a late 11-0 run in a 106-96 win. Toronto shook off a rough third quarter to outscore Houston 31-22 in the fourth, getting double figures from six players to improve to 4-9 on the season.
Bargnani flashed both his inside and outside game, making 11-of-17 shots while grabbing six boards and handing out a season-high four assists. So, is this something we’re ready to expect night in and night out, now that he’s got two straight under his belt? I’ll tell ya, as hard as I am on the guy for his lack of consistency, I really do feel he’s getting the hang of being a big-time player in the NBA. Sure, the rebounding and defense are worlds from where they need to be, but Bargnani’s offensive game has improved vastly each of the past three seasons. Most importantly, he was there in the fourth quarter of the past two games, leading late runs to carry the Raps to wins.
Linas Kleiza and Jose Calderon paced Toronto’s bench, which outscored the Rockets 46-11 and got at least nine points from each of the four players that ditched their warmups. Kleiza’s 17 on 7-of-11 was his second strong effort in three games since coming back from an achilles injury, and Calderon had 10 points and seven assists, finishing in double-digits for the fourth time in his last four games. Amir Johnson had 10 points, eight rebounds, two steals and two blocks in 27 minutes and David Andersen had nine and four boards in just 12 minutes against his former team.
Aside from his offensive output, Johnson teamed with Reggie Evans to put the clamps on Houston big man Luis Scola, who came in averaing 22.9 points and 10.0 rebounds, holding the Argentinian to 19 and five on just 8-of-19 shooting. Kevin Martin led the Rockets with 31 points, making 8-of-16 from the field and knocking in all 11 of his free throws.
A tight win over the Rockets isn’t exactly one worth raising a championship banner over, but two straight for the first time all season feels a little good. The win is just Toronto’s second in five games at the ACC thus far, with a date with the Celtics, who haven’t lost in Toronto since The Big Three teamed up in 2007, looming on Sunday afternooon. Win that one and maaaaybe I’ll starting routing the parade…