Raptors [47-17] vs Rockets [51-13]: Preview and three keys

HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 14: Delon Wright
HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 14: Delon Wright /

As the Toronto Raptors aim to win six straight games they face the NBA’s best Houston Rockets who have a 17-game win streak of their own. Who’s win streak will come to an end?

The Raptors can thank DeMar DeRozan for keeping their five-game win streak alive Wednesday night as they faced off against the Detroit Pistons. With barely 10 seconds left DeRozan charged into a sea of Piston players and absolutely demolished Anthony Tolliver. Watching it you almost felt bad for Tolliver. Anybody with common sense would have moved out of the way as to avoid embarrassment but Tolliver, with a mixture of braveness and stupidity, decided to try to block DeRozan.

That play helped lead to overtime and the last second assist to Fred VanVleet for the go-ahead bucket sealed the deal. The Raptors had to give it their all to beat the Pistons, they’re going to need that and more if they hope to stop the Rockets.

This Rockets team has taken the NBA by storm. Coming into the year many questioned how Chris Paul and James Harden were going to handle playing with each other as there is “only one ball”. Their 51-13 record should tell you exactly how they’re playing. The Rockets have put together the best offensive team ever. They have a total of five players in the top 10 for offensive rating (Chris Paul, James Harden, Eric Gordon, PJ Tucker and Clint Capela). Offensively. the Rockets can hurt you from just about anywhere and they’re a top 10 team defensively.

Beware of the obvious

I never thought I would say it but James Harden has elevated his game another level. Throughout the year Harden has managed to separate himself in the race for MVP (other candidates are LeBron James, Anthony Davis and even Raptors own DeMar DeRozan). Taking on a bigger workload has seemingly made Harden even better.

Harden has averaged incredible numbers throughout the year, scoring 30.9 points, grabbing 5.2 rebounds and dishing out 8.9 assists per game. Not only has Harden been an incredible scorer, having nine games with 40+ points (one being a 60 point game), but he’s also been an incredible facilitator for his team. On 22 different occasions, Harden has handed out 10 or more assists to teammates (his highest being a 17-assist game).

Harden’s biggest knock has always been his defensive ability. In past years he’s either been incredibly bad or simply lacked the effort to be an average NBA defender. This year has been much of the same for Harden although, the rest of his team seems to have picked up the slack defensive for him. While Harden may not be a defensive superstar the rest of his team is doing a bang-up job.

Three keys to victory

  1.  Limit 3’s –Although it may sound impossible based on who they’re playing the Raptors need to limit the three-pointers made by the Rockets. Don’t misunderstand, it is impossible to completely shut down the barrage that is the Rockets’ three-point attack, but putting a cap on it will help improve the chances of winning.
  2. No slow starts or big runs – Raptors have had their share of lethargic starts to games which result in come-from-behind efforts in order to win. They need to avoid the slow start if they hope to match the pace of the Rockets. The Rockets are a scoring machine and any long-stretch without a bucket could be the beggining of the end for the Raptors. 
  3. Battle of the MVPs – The Raptors are going to once again need to rely on DeRozan to lead the way. In what is a matchup of potential MVPs (I understand how far and away Harden is compared to the rest) DeRozan must come ready to perform. Prove to the world why you belong in the MVP discussion.

Next: Did the Raptors get better by trading Corey Joseph?


The Rockets high-flying offense is going to put the Raptors defense to the test. Ultimately it’ll prove to be too much and the Raptors won’t be able to keep pace. The absence of rookie starter OG Anunoby is going to play a large factor in this game. With OG in the lineup, the game might be different, but as it stands currently I’m awarding the win to the Rockets.

Rockets 113 – Raptors 107