Two of the top teams in the NBA clash on Thursday night when the Houston Rockets travel to Canada to take on the defending NBA champions, the Toronto Raptors.
Houston has been a bit of a one-man show this year as injuries have taken their toll, and Russell Westbrook has struggled to completely fit in. While he is a great player, Westbrook is not an effective scorer, and his jump shot is not there. When the Rockets brought him in for Chris Paul, they likely expected a more energetic guy who could help them speed up the pace and would not need to play iso ball to put his points on the board. James Harden, meanwhile, has continued to light it up.
Toronto is coming off its toughest loss of the year, a game in which it was held to just two points in overtime in falling to Miami. The Raptors had been undefeated at home, and it was also the return to the lineup of Kyle Lowry after he missed 11 games with an injury. You cannot win them all, of course, and we’ll see how they bounce back and try to contain Harden. This is a matchup with two teams that are currently dreaming of being in the NBA Finals. For Toronto, this would be a return trip, of course.
The spread for Thursday night’s primetime showdown favors the Raptors by two points, while the over/under is set at 230.
Houston Looks To Get Things Going
While Harden is nearly scoring 40 points per game (39.5) and getting nearly 15 free throws per game, the Rockets continue to try and find a consistent scorer outside of him. Westbrook is averaging 22 points while shooting 41 percent from the floor, while Clint Capela is grabbing all of the rebounds. PJ Tucker continues to score from the corner, as Eric Gordon is still hurt. But, there are some serious negatives of Harden being this ball-dominant, as it takes many players out of rhythm during the course of the game.
This is a team that should expect to get beyond the opening round of the postseason, but its title chances are slim if it doesn’t change how it plays.
Toronto Tries To Bounce Back
After taking that tough loss, the Raptors will try to start a new streak at home. Pascal Siakam has averaged 26 points, eight rebounds and four assists, while Fred VanVleet has posted 19 points, four rebounds and seven assists per game. Both of these guys have been tremendous this year, and Lowry didn’t shoot well but looked good in his return. Norman Powell has stepped his game up and is scoring nearly 13 points per game, shooting 38 percent from beyond the arc. Serge Ibaka is healthy again and is scoring nearly 14 a night, too. OG Anunoby is playing some tremendous defense now that he is starting again and scoring a career-high 11 points per game. We have also seen effective play from Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
Look for Lowry to find his shooting stroke in this one and have a performance to remember. He and VanVleet will both be on their A-game.
Toronto Knocks Off Houston
On an off night for Siakam, the guards will step up to lead the Raptors to the win!
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