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Bargnani's solid shooting leads Raptors over Rockets

Mar 1, 2007 - 5:49 AM HOUSTON (Ticker) -- If he keeps shooting this well, Andrea Bargnani will be tough to beat for Rookie of the Year.

Bargnani scored 20 points and T.J. Ford and Kris Humphries added 16 each to lead six players in double figures as the Toronto Raptors posted a 106-90 victory over the Houston Rockets.

The league's top draft pick, Bargnani leads all rookies in 3-pointers (82) and reached double digits for the ninth time in 10 games. The Italian hit 8-of-12 shots, including 4-of-5 from the arc.

"Today, we moved the ball very good, so I had a lot of open looks," Bargnani said. Somedays, your shot is good. Somedays, it is not. Today was good."

"I think (Bargnani) is comfortable," Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said. "I think he's showing how good he's going to be. The thing I'm happy with him is that defensively and rebounding, he's doing better. I've never had one conversation with him about shooting or offense. I saw early on that he has a pretty good idea what to do with the basketball."

The Raptors made a sizzling 16-of-20 shots from the floor and scored 40 points in the second quarter to forge a 67-47 halftime lead. Bargnani hit all five of his shots, including three 3-pointers, for 13 points in the period.

"Both teams shot the ball well," Ford said. "We've got so many shooters and so many different people stepped up. Bargnani didn't play like a rookie, but he hasn't been playing like a rookie since the first week. He's a big lift for us. And we played well defensively."

"We were catching the ball and looking for the basket," Humphries said. "That's the way we want to play. We have a lot of success doing it."

Houston received seven points from former Raptor Tracy McGrady and six consecutive from Chuck Hayes, while limiting Toronto to 12 points in the third quarter to get within 79-68.

"Scariest thing is to be up 20 at the half," Mitchell said. "You know on their floor, a team is going to make a run. I thought when they got it to nine, our guys got back to moving the basketball and hitting some shots. That's what you have to do to win on the road."

"We didn't play any defense," Hayes said. "We didn't make it hard on them. They hit tough shots and we got down on ourselves."

After Bonzi Wells cut the Rockets' deficit to 85-76 with 10:00 remaining, Toronto pulled away with a 15-2 run. Jose Calderon scored six points and Bargnani nailed a 12-foot jumper and a basket from the arc during the spurt.

"We shot the ball well," Mitchell said. "We moved the basketball and we got good looks. That's what we knew we had to do against this team.

"I thought our bench was just unbelievable. Our point guards had 32 points, 12 assists and three turnovers. Kris Humphries played by far the best game he's played for us in a long time."

The seldom-used Humphries made all seven of his shots and added six rebounds and Calderon scored 14 points, Chris Bosh had 13 and Juan Dixon 11 for the Raptors, who won for just the third time here in 12 tries.

"You've just to keep hanging in there and fighting and not press," Ford said. "You've got to be able to keep the game close and that's where we lost our composure in San Antonio (on Monday). Tonight, we kept our composure and were able to get the lead back up."

After sitting out Monday's loss to the Boston Celtics with flu-like symptoms, McGrady scored 22 points on 10-of-20 shooting. Shane Battier added 16 points and Rafer Alston 12 for the Rockets, who have dropped three of four.

"I think we just have to recommit ourselves for the remainder of the season," McGrady said. "I think we kind of got away from doing what makes us good. We're not rebounding (and) not defending. We're not doing the little things that make us a good team. I've got to find some way myself to reunite the team."

"Those teams that spread you out like this, with our level of quickness, make it harder on us, and yet we can do it if we play with an all-out level of intensity and passion," Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "Anything less, we're too slow to cover."

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