While the NHL is partying it up in Toronto for their All-Star Weekend, the Toronto Raptors are out on the road on a lengthy road trip. Tonight’s stop was yet another reunion between the team and a former Raptor.
Between Kawhi, Norm, O.G., DeMar and now Fred VanVleet and the Rockets, it feels like the Raptors have been on a reunion tour this month. Tonight in Houston brought back many emotions after VanVleet decided to leave Toronto for the Rockets last summer.
This game was the first time Fred VanVleet played against his former team. The team that took him in as an undrafted player, where he spent seven seasons creating a legacy for himself that will be in the Raptors history books forever.
It’ll always be love for Fred, but it’s very weird to see him on the opposing team.
It was somewhat of a preview if the emotional night we are in for next Friday when the Rockets make their first appearance in Toronto of the season — marking Fred’s return to Toronto as well.
VanVleet wins his first game vs his former team, and he’ll see them again in Toronto next week. His new team improves to 23-25, passing their win total from last season in 34 fewer games. Ugly loss for the Raptors. If you're into moral victories, Barnes was the lone bright spot.— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) February 3, 2024
On the Raptors’ side, Toronto was happy to welcome back both Immanuel Quickley and Jakob Poeltl into the starting lineup. Both had been out with injury, with their absences extremely noticeable on this team.
The first half of the game saw the Raptors allow the Rockets to go up big. The shooting of Fred VanVleet, plus the efficiency in the paint from Alperen Sengun were key factors in Houston’s significant lead. The Rockets scored 42 points in the paint in the first half.
Toronto had a hard time finishing in the paint, even with the return of their center, Poeltl. Their perimeter shooting was also struggling, as they shot less than 20% from three in the first half.
Houston finished the first half up 66-47 over the Raptors.
The second half just saw the Rockets go up more and more over the Raptors. They continued to absolutely cook Toronto in the paint, which wasn’t helped when Jakob Poeltl was fouled out with over eight minutes left in the game.
Raptors lose by 29 points, their largest loss to the Rockets since November 1997.— Keerthika Uthayakumar (@keerthikau) February 3, 2024
The Raptors were playing on snooze mode tonight. Almost like any of them could be traded at any point this week...
The sad part though is that there wasn’t much fight from this team. Even in the depths of previous losing games and seasons, the Raptors had a way of never giving up. That’s why so many “fake” comebacks came about.
Yet tonight the Raptors just kinda... stopped.
The only one who put up a performance worthy of focusing on was Scottie Barnes. After being snubbed from the All-Star Reserves earlier this week, Scottie sure played like he had something to prove.
Scottie Barnes playing like he got snubbed from All-Star— Blake Murphy (@BlakeMurphyODC) February 3, 2024
Rest of the roster playing like they got snubbed from the "maybe you could get a late 2nd for them" list
Barnes scored 28 points on 10-17 shooting from the field, along with six rebounds, four assists, and one steal.
In the end, the Raptors lose to the Rockets 135-106. They’ll face each other again in just one week’s time.
For now, the Raptors will head to Oklahoma City to see Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the Thunder on Sunday evening.