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Bench Unit Leads Rockets, 98-76

Corey Brewer was a spark off the bench tonight with 26 points, 10 rebounds and 5 steals.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Donatas Motiejunas is a fan of Kit Kat bars.

He's also a fan of longtime friend and fellow Lithuanian Jonas Valanciunas. And the two went against each other tonight as the Rockets outlasted the Raptors 98-76.

Per usual, the energy guys were Corey Brewer, Terrence Jones, and to a lesser extent, Josh Smith. Brewer scored 12 points in his first 12 minutes, and Jones tallied three blocks before halftime. The bench led the first half for the Rockets as Brewer and Smith connected on nine of their first 13 shots.

Brewer scored 10 points in the second quarter.

The Rockets played aggressive defense in the first half, but Toronto was able to keep up because Houston, just like last game against the Dallas Mavericks, was not knocking down shots.

Harden started the game zero-for-six from the field with four points but wasn't worried about making shots and instead kept the ball moving. The Raptors played a swarming defense on him that collapsed every time he got into the paint, allowing Harden to dish it out to his teammates.

Patrick Beverley began the game shooting zero-for-seven while Pablo Prigioni sat on the bench in his warmups. Where has Beverley been the past few weeks?

Houston shot 36 percent in the first half, and their defense was what was keeping them alive through two quarters. The Rockets only led by four points going into halftime.

"We've got a deep team, we got to keep finding a way to use [the bench], but they gave us a great boost right there," said Rockets assistant coach J.B. Bickerstaff.

James Johnson played like a guard tonight and handled Harden well defensively when switched onto him; He scored a career-high 27 points and was getting to the free-throw line at will. He went off in the first half, but the Rockets were able to contain his scoring output when they were making their run in the third.

The Rockets shot 2-for-17 from deep in the first half.

They started the second half three-of-four.

Toronto had more turnovers than Houston, but both teams played sloppily. Turnovers were everywhere. But what was especially infuriating was how often Houston would turnover the ball after a good defensive stop.

Beverley shot one-for-seven from the field last night and went one-for-eight tonight. Why didn't Houston at least try Prigioni? Stick him in the corner and let him create better floor spacing than say...Patrick Beverley.

After only scoring four points in the first quarter, Harden didn't lose his patience; He didn't force up shots, he let the defense crowd him then he made the correct pass to keep the ball moving and get a good look at the basket. His shot started falling in the third, particularly from deep, forcing the defense to stick to him on the perimeter after which he would break down the D and drive in the lane.
One thing you cannot call the Rockets is selfish. They combined for 22 assists versus the Raptors' 12. They're the 13th highest assisting team in the league with an average of 21.7. They're also 11th in assist percentage at 58.9 (percentage of team's made field goals that a player assisted).
The Rockets outscored the Raptors 26-17 in the third quarter.

They didn't allow the Raptors to score over 20 points in each of the first three quarters.
Terrence Jones has been a huge help in the Rockets' weathering of the storm that is the Dwight Howard injury. Since returning to action, he's been an explosive athlete—active on the boards, running the fast break, blocking shots—he's brought some much needed energy in the paint for Houston in Superman's absence.

Speaking of energy, Brewer also brought it tonight: He scored in bunches and snagged five steals, one short of his career high.
The Rockets ran away with the win in the fourth quarter after a bright third; It also helped that the Raps got in the penalty early in both the third and fourth.

This certainly wasn't Kyle Lowry's game, who I wondered if he'd come out tonight with a vegenance. He shot 2-for-13 from the field, zero-for-seven from three, got seven turnovers and five fouls.

Johnson's tattoo on his neck spells his son's name, Naymin.

D-Mo recorded his seventh double-double of the season.

The Rockets played their best defense of the year.

They played the whole fourth quarter without Harden, who deserved the rest after exploding for 16 in the third quarter.

Brewer scored his season high as a Houston Rocket with 26 points.
"We had a bad game last night. ... Tonight we had to come out, we had to play with more energy, we had to be aggressive, and it worked out," said Brewer after the game. "It's a perfect way to start [this stretch of home games]. ... We have to come out like this every night. We have to play hard. And we have to play Rocket ball."
Couldn't have said it better myself.