Sports

Quickley powers Raptors past Rockets 107-104

TORONTO – Immanuel Quickley dominated with 25 points as the Toronto Raptors held off the Houston Rockets 107-104 on Friday and welcomed back former star Fred VanVleet.

RJ Barrett of Mississauga, Ont., had 21 points and a season-high seven assists as Toronto (19-33) won back-to-back games.

Scottie Barnes and Jakob Poeltl each had a double-double. Barnes had 13 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, while Poeltl had 16 points and 12 rebounds.

Jabari Smith Jr. had a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds as Houston (23-28) dropped its third straight. Dillon Brooks, also from Mississauga, had 20 points with 11 coming in the fourth quarter.

VanVleet, who started his career with the Raptors and won the NBA championship with the team in 2019, returned to Toronto for the first time since signing with Houston in the off-season.

He agreed to a lucrative three-year US$128 million deal with the Rockets in July but wasn’t able to play on Friday because of a left adductor strain.

“I don’t really know what to expect, but I was obviously excited to make the trip,” said VanVleet at Houston’s morning shootaround. “It’s good to come visit some people and spend some time in some of my favourite places.

“It’s definitely one of my favourite places in the world.”


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A tribute video was played for VanVleet during the first quarter with the sold-out crowd of 19,800 giving him a standing ovation as he walked out into the middle of the court to wave his thanks. Scotiabank Arena also had VanVleet’s picture with the message “Welcome back champ” on its outdoor video board.

Toronto guard Gary Trent Jr. intercepted a bad pass from Holiday with 4:21 left in the first quarter and then roll-bounced the ball to a streaking Quickley, who got the easy bucket for a 13-point lead. Quickley led all scorers with nine as the Raptors built a 34-20 lead by the end of the first.

Houston put together a 15-0 run in the second, punctuated by a 12-foot jumper by Aaron Holiday for a two-point lead with 9:02 left in the quarter. A 13-3 Toronto rally closed out the half, however, as the Raptors went into the intermission with a 61-49 lead.

That streak continued into the third, with Quickley nailing a 25-foot three-pointer just under three minutes into quarter.

The 24-year-old Quickley faked out Amen Thompson on the shot, with the sprinting Rockets guard flying past him before he calmly drilled the three. Quickley danced back down the court as Toronto opened up a 23-point advantage thanks to his dagger.

Backup Raptors centre Jontay Porter had five points to close out the third as Toronto held an 88-71 lead heading into the final frame.

Brooks helped the Rockets reel in his hometown team in the fourth, scoring 11 points in the quarter to cut Toronto’s lead to six.

Quickley made one of two free throws with 36.1 seconds left to play before Holiday scored a quick layup and stole the in-bounds pass for another Houston possession.

Jeff Green missed his three-pointer when play resumed but the Rockets again gained the ball, drilling a 27-foot three-pointer to pull the game to within a point.

Barrett was fouled on the in-bounds pass and made both of his free throws to restore a 107-104 Raptors lead with 18.2 seconds left.

Holiday missed a three-point attempt to tie the game on the next Houston possession but then called a quick timeout when Thompson grabbed the rebound. With the crowd chanting “DE-FENCE!” Green clanked his three-point shot off the rim to seal Toronto’s victory.

NEW ARRIVALS — Guard Ochai Agbaji and Canadian centre Kelly Olynyk arrived in Toronto a day after the Utah Jazz traded them to the Raptors. Although both of them were available to play, Toronto head coach Darko Rajakovic said he intended to rest them after they both spent the day travelling to join their new team.

UP NEXT — Toronto hosts the Cleveland Cavaliers (34-16) on Saturday night.

Houston continues its road trip with a stop in Atlanta against the Hawks on Saturday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 9, 2024.

&copy 2024 The Canadian Press

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