Related Tags: James Harden
The Toronto Raptors head to Houston coming off a 110-106 loss to the Indiana Pacers. They are 36-14 on the season and 15-10 on the road. Houston narrowly escaped their last game against the Knicks, 114-110. They are 27-20 on the season, 17-7 at home and just 5-5 over their last ten. Toronto won both meetings between the teams last season and this is the first meeting this season.
The question is whether ot not the Rockets can compete with one of the top teams in the NBA without starters Clint Capela and Chris Paul. Examining the teams statistically, the Raptors are in the top ten in scoring, fewest points allowed and turnovers, while in the middle of the pack in rebounding. Houston is near the middle in scoring, defense and turnovers, but are one of the worst rebounding teams in the league. This will be compounded with the absence of Capela.
The Rockets will rely heavily on James Harden, who is averaging 36.3 points per game this season, hitting 37 percent from long range. Not just a scoring machine, Harden dishes out 8.3 assists and hauls in 6.6 rebounds per game. Capela is out 4-6 weeks after thumb surgery and Chris Paula has been out since December 20 with a hamstring injury. Trying to help pick up the slack is Eric Gordon (16.1 points) and Austin Rivers (11.2 points).
While Harden will be the best player on the floor, the Raptors clearly have more talent up and down the roster. They are lead by Kawhi Leonard, who is averaging 27.6 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. Serge Ibaka (16.5 points, 7.4 rebounds) and Pascal Siakam (15 points, 7 rebounds) complete a trio who are all scorers and competent rebounders. Kyle Lowry has been an excellent floor leader, while Danny Green is potent from long range, hitting 41 percent of his three-point attempts.
The Raptors know Harden will get his and will make the rest of the team beat them. The line isn't out yet for this game, but with the injuries Houston has, it wont be a surprise if Toronto is a road favorite. In any event, the Rockets don't have enough to stay with the Raptors all game. Toronto will win and keep their pressure on Milwaukee for top seed in the Eastern Conference.