For the second straight game, the Raps take on a Texas team sporting an 11-11 record with 3 OT losses (weird!), this time the rebuilt Rockets. Houston used trades & free agency to snap together a lineup which has gelled quickly. Omer Asik, their giant Centre, was regarded as a defensive specialist in Chicago. Given more offensive freedom in Texas, he has responded with 10+ PPG while maintaining his excellent rebounding numbers. Patrick Patterson is gaining respect for his balanced scoring. He’s like Ed Davis with a better jumper, although Ed is stronger on the boards. [Update: Patterson out with foot injury. No alternate starter named - Marcus Morris?] Chandler Parsons is the team’s second highest scorer, & will be closely marked by Mikael Pietrus. Parsons was selected in the second round of the draft in 2011, & is proving himself to be a major find for the Rox.
Of course those guys are the sideshow, not the main attraction. Houston’s backcourt gets the headlines, with James Harden, their Shooting (boy, does he ever) Guard, & Jeremy Lin starting at Point. Harden’s 24.8 PPG sits fifth in the NBA. He can hit from anywhere on the floor, & might be the league’s most unflappable star. Lin is performing at a level (11 P & 6 A PG) far removed, but more maintainable, from those crazy times last year as Flavour-of-the-Month for the Knicks.
The Raps got hammered in Houston a few weeks ago, giving up 99 points in 3 quarters. I can’t believe the Rox can be that hot again (13/26 from distance), but they are coming off a pair of home victories, so they’re in form. The injury-strapped Raps will start the same 5 as they did in the Dallas win, but the key to this game will be the bench. They poured in 58 against the Mavs, a huge number we aren’t likely to see again (although if Linus Kleiza & Terrence Ross can shoot well again, we’ll take it!). Jonas Valanciunas has had trouble scoring recently, perhaps concentrating on avoiding fouls on defence. Davis also needs to find more points; I look to him to have a big impact on the offensive boards. The Rox push their starters hard; ergo, they don’t have confidence in their second unit. If the Raps can get someone (Asik?) in foul trouble, our superior bench could swing the game in our favour.
Let’s try the reverse psychology thing again: Rockets 98 – Raptors 92.
Brian Boake is a staff writer for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.