Listening to the Rapcast, no doubt.

Listening to the Rapcast, no doubt.

The Raptors head to Houston to take on the Rockets at 8 p.m. EST tonight. The Rockets, of course, are a whole new team since we last saw them in 2011-12, having added Jeremy Lin, James Harden and Omer Asik.

To get a feel for how the new Rockets are getting settled in, I sent a few questions in the direction of Michael Pina of Red94, which he kindly answered below.

Do you guys miss Kyle Lowry at all?

Kyle Lowry could’ve been an All-Star last season, and appeared headed there this year before hurting his ankle against the Thunder. He’s really, really good at pretty much everything you’d like your point guard to be good at. So yes, at least a small part of every Rockets fan should be longing for Lowry.

Throw a sputtering, still developing Jeremy Lin into the mix, and Houston isn’t necessarily unhappy with their point guard situation, but they aren’t stupid either. Having Lowry was awesome.

Has James Harden been everything you expected?

He’s been more. Despite watching his responsibilities proliferate in Houston, Harden has been able to carry over that poised excellence that made im so effective in Oklahoma City. The crazy thing about his game, which at times looks unstoppable, is he’s only shooting 32% from the three-point line. A number that’s due to rise. Also, he’s 23 years old.

What is the one weakness the Raptors could potentially exploit on this team?

The Rockets have established an uptempo style of play, running and gunning up and down the court for 48 minutes. It’s worked to both their benefit and undoing, allowing as many possessions as possible while also leaving their defense susceptible in transition.

Any chance the Raptors steal one, or are the Rockets ready to lay the hammer down on a mentally exhausted Raptors team?

I don’t know how much of an impact the death of Kevin McHale’s daughter will have on this team, but my guess is it’ll somehow, someway influence everybody. A lack of professional focus is more than understandable, so from that standpoint I wouldn’t be surprised to see this young Rockets group play as if something much more important weighed heavy on their minds.

The Prologue
The Rockets are 6-7 but actually have a positive scoring margin and when you figure in strength of schedule have actually been pretty good. Obviously, James Harden is the key, as he’s been a revelation as the go-to guy on his own team. Meanwhile, Jeremy Lin has struggled pretty badly (he deserves it for ruining my Valentine’s Day last year), while The Iron Asik has been about what was expected.

How does it shake down for the Raptors, who have lost four straight games where the score was within a basket down the stretch? It’s been heart-wrenching and difficult to watch, while it’s also highlighted some of the warts this team has (see Arse’s earlier piece for just some of the ugly details). They say that one-possession games tend to even out, and scoring margin is a better predictor of blah blah blah…you can’t give away four straight games like that, regardless of the score, strength of opponent, or any other details. They need to either win this game, or lose handedly so we can avoid the heartbreak.

Tale of the Tape
Offensive Rating – Houston 105.0 (15th), Toronto 102.2 (21st)
Defensive Rating – Houston 103.8 (15th), Toronto 106.1 (22nd)
Pace – Houston 94.9 (1st), Toronto 91.1 (22nd)
Strength – Houston FT Defense (3rd lowest FT/FGA), Toronto Ball Protection (2nd lowest TO%)
Weakness – Houston Ball Protection (27th in TO%), Toronto FT Defense (29th in FT/FGA allowed)

Positional Breakdown
Point GuardKyle Lowry and Jose Calderon vs. Jeremy Lin and Toney Douglas
Advantage – Raptors
Lowry is better than Lin, although some of the Republic would likely disagree with me there. Beyond that, Calderon is also better than Douglas, who has a reputation as a strong defender but I don’t remember ever being impressed by him. Lin is shooting under 35% but is at least getting teammates involved with six assists a night. I’ve actually watched a handful of Rockets games this year because they’re a great League Pass team, and I think Lin’s issue is primarily that he’s not the main ballhandler anymore and he’s having trouble adjusting. Unless he magically adjusts tonight, the Raptors maintain an advantage (until the last three minutes, when Jose becomes an even bigger liability defensively and Lowry loses his head).

Wings – DeMar DeRozan, Dominic McGuire, Terrence Ross and Linas Kleiza vs. James Harden, Chandler Parsons, Carlos Delfino and Daequan Cook
Question – Who are the five greatest shooters of all time?
Answer – Daequan, Daequan, Daequan, Daequan and Daequan, I spit hot fire!
Advantage – Rockets
Harden is the best player in the game tonight, which is always an advantage for any team. McGuire will be tasked with guarding him in all likelihood, and he’ll need to utilize his length to disrupt Harden’s ball handling. More importantly will be the help defense and the switching of the bigs, since Harden operates in the pick and roll more often and more effectively than almost any other player in the NBA. McGuire will need to fight through Asik screens, while the Raptor bigs will need to be ready to drop back into the paint, since Asik is also one of the league’s top performers as the roll man. Elsewhere, Parsons has been VERY good and VERY efficient offensively, so it’s not like switching DeRozan onto Parsons will give him much of a break. The Rocket wings are adequate defenders, too, but it will be imperative for DeRozan to attack early and often, both to get freebies at the line (the Rockets don’t foul much) and to make Harden and Parsons work at both ends. Pretty major Rockets advantage here.

BigsAndrea Bargnani, Jonas MFing Valanciunas aka The Lethaluanian aka The Franchise aka H.I. Paperstacks aka The GOAT aka Big Lita, Amir Johnson and Ed Boss Davis vs. Patrick Patterson, Omer The Iron Asik, Terrence Jones and Marcus Morris
Advantage – Raptors
Asik has been good as the roll man, as mentioned, but his offensive game is pretty limited otherwise. He is, however, a banger defensively and should give the Raptor bigs trouble in the paint. Patterson is a solid scorer but not a terribly effective defensive player. I haven’t seen quite enough of Asik to know if he can handle Bargnani or if he’ll be tasked with locking down an improving-by-the-day Valanciunas in the paint. Whoever isn’t guarded by Asik is likely to have a significant advantage. I’ll assume it’s Bargnani since Asik is unlikely to be able to keep up with him on the perimeter, but coming off a 2-for-19 performance that was the “last straw” for a lot of Raptor fans, perhaps the Republic would rather have Bargnani hidden on offense. Regardless, given the combination of the two spots and the Raptors’ sizable advantage when things go to the bench, the Raptors get an edge here. Jonas and Asik could be a VERY fun match-up to watch. And Free Ed Davis.

Overall Analysis
You’ve got to like the Rockets, since they’re at home and have a better team in general. Mike’s point about McHale’s daughter (and my thoughts are with that family…kinda puts a four-game losing streak in perspective) could go either way, galvanizing the team or dragging them down. The Rockets are -6 favorites and I think that’s a pretty good line. On Sunday I underestimated the fight in the Raptors, suggesting a San Antonio blow out given the exhaustion of the Raptors from such a tough week. One game and one heartbreak later, and back on the road, I don’t see the Raptors having “it” tonight. Rockets by 8.


  • Destro

    Toronto 89
    Houston 103

    Lowry 24 pts.8 ast,6 rebs
    Bargnani 19 pts,6 rebs,4 stupid faces,4 missed assignments

  • Copywryter

    I love how the Raptors are given the advantage in most positional matchups against most teams yet are 3-11. Problem, we have a Houston.

    • BlakeMurphy

      Is it not reasonable here? Houston has advantage at 2/5 positions, but Raptors advantages are slight and Rockets advantages are large. Is this not within the realm of reasonable thought? What if it was the LeBron Cavs, who only ever had an advantage at 1 position, but it was a massive one?

      • Copywryter

        Asik is 3rd best in the league in rebounding and top 30 in blocks. I don’t see how our bigs are better.

        Uh, the Cavs had Mo Williams (semi all-star) and Anderson Varejao is/was no slouch (see RPG and PER this year), and later an end-of-career Shaq.

        • BlakeMurphy

          I’d argue Mo wasn’t deserving of All-Star consideration, but Andy is fair. My point was just that “# of positional advantages” does not = “overall advantage”.

          Asik is good, as I was very clear about, but it’s an analysis of all the bigs…the Raptors probably have the 2nd and 3rd best bigs in this game, plus depending on how you feel about PatPat, 4th and 5th as well.

          • Copywryter

            But all the bigs don’t play big minutes so the analysis is flawed — it’s improperly weighted. Asik is not simply good he is one of the best rebounders in the NBA and his offensive game isn’t terrible. In a sense I’m using your own LeBron argument here…he could be backed up by Donald Duck or Jamario Moon or even Rasual Butler and his greatness gives the edge over most teams.  

            • BlakeMurphy

              I didn’t say it’s weighted 25×4, just that it plays in. It’s played out more or less as expected tonight -Bargs has got his, but Asik’s been good too. The ‘flaw’ for this particular game was not seeing a PatPat explosion.

              And Donald Duck could score on Bargs.

              • Theswirsky

                you weren’t expecting the guy bargnani would be guarding to explode?

                Both Donald and Daffy Duck scored to the tune of 33 pts.   When Patterson wasn’t scoring on Bargnani, Morris was.

                • Copywryter

                  You can’t place all the blame on Bargs, JV was kept off the glass by Asik. 

                • Theswirsky

                  all the blame for what?

                • p00ka

                  Your misery

                • Destro

                  Dont deflect,confront !!

  • Alb Perjet

    Raptors by 12.
    Lowry and Harden both score over 20. Derozan gets 17pts and Parsons goes for 18pts. Bargs is the difference maker in this game with 22pts 4 reb (you better not let me down you primo pasta skid mark). And our boy Big V is one rebound shy of a double double.  Oh yea forgot about Lin: Fuck him, he is only scoring 8pts tonight and is abused by Lowry up and down the floor all night long.   Book it.

    • Copywryter

      Good call. 

  • pran

    I predict huge games from harden and asik, b/c of the raptors inability to defend the pick and roll, and our general softness on the glass.

    If bargnani gets the bulk of minutes I predict a very poor defensive performance, and an offensive game dictated by weather his jumper is falling or not. Alot of #tradebargnani will be floating around after this one.

  • lloyd

    Can someone at the acc offices please let us know when the security guards will be escorting Colangelo with his desk in a box? I would like to be there with friends to rub the salt in.

  • pesterm1

    Is Mchale even going to coach tonight? I mean his daughter died yesterday …
    My condolences to the Mchale family.

    • Matt52

      No. He has been away from the team for a couple of weeks and his return is indefinite.

  • BlakeMurphy

    I’m VERY confused as to how this new Disqus layout is sorting comments.

    • FLUXLAND

      Drop down the Discussion tab and select oldest.. will be the same as before. It sort by most popular by default.

      • Nilanka15

        But is there a way to visually tell which comments haven’t been read yet (like before)?

        • FLUXLAND

          That, I do not believe is the case. The other annoying thing is the time stamp. “x hours ago”? uuggh.

          (And where’s my Mamba #8 jersey pic? *thf voice*)

    • Matt52

      Not a fan.

  • BCBargnaniCaseyGots2Go!!!

    Also, Houston has Cole Aldrich to bang with Val behind Asik as well as Donatas Motiejunas (Lithuania) was just called up by the Rockets.
    PG Scott Machado was just called up to by the Rockets as well.
    I look for JHarden to just slice and dice the Raptors defense in pick ‘n roll situations for buckets or dropping dimes to teammates.
    Will DD guard Parsons & McGuire guard Harden?
    I can see Lowry trying to Bogart Lin all over the court but Lin is no slouch- ask Jose……
    AB could have a nice advantage over Patterson and/or Morris if he can hit his shots over the much shorter PFs.
    I see Houston 109 Raptors 95………

    • TOraps

      What happened to your boy Tony Wroten Jr aka Gary Payton Jr? Heard he’s balling in the D-league….(D-League do you know me) *Gots2Go voice*

    • Copywryter

      Aldrich is day-to-day, no?

  • Jamshid

    Great Work Blake. I have been criticizing the new writers of RR quite vocally but this is a great interview and a fun read. You asked great question and it was pleasure reading it.
    Thanks for the hard work.

  • Brain Colangelo

    Bronas Valanciunas is still the best nickname I’ve seen.

    • BlakeMurphy

      I don’t like to give it love because the guy who has a site named that spams our post-game posts with his links.

  • KJ-B

    WELCOME TO THE NBA: TROSS!!!

  • KJ-B

    In other news, I’m going to be calling #7, Minus 7 from here on in til he gets traded…

    So -7 essentially scored a bunch of meaningless buckets, was outta place on almost every Houston drive and generally hung around the perimeter hoping to orgasm on another attempted long 2 / 3 woefully leaving Big V overwhelmed and reducing most possessions to 1 AND DONE… 

    smh–holla at me after Casey falls on the sword for -7 & his benefactor BryCo…

    • KJ-B

      Raps makin’ a run without -7 in the game … -7 is waaay above is name sake with a robust -24 2nite…does Casey dare re-insert Minus 2nite for another 4th quarter disaster??

      • Destro

        19 pts in 1st half when game was over
        2 pts in 2nd half (as per usual)
        3 rebounds (as per usual)

        Team high -24  LOL @ Chesco

        • Nilanka15

          How many stupid faces? 😛

    • Destro

      Its amazing how certain hoe fans will have the nerve to say hes a decent defender…its a slap in the face to all mediocre defenders in the league,hes Les Miserables defensively….he leaves open shooters,he lets smaller players post his ass under the basket for easy buckets,hes never NEVER under the basket when theres a shot up or loose ball….hes THEE worst big ive seen defensively in the NBA….

      • footie

         Of course even tonight it’s his fault…8-12 even Ross had more shots than him, let’s not talk about our spectacular wings or maybe the fact that Barg since Bosh left has always played in a shitty Raptors team, let’s hope he’s going to be traded …but not just him you need to get rid of him Calderon,Amir and restart with DeRozan ,Ross,Davis , Val and see if Lowry can be trust …but you need patience you might have a ok future

      • KJ-B

        SO SAD.   It’s funny because, if any1 of -7’s fans were his teammate they’d probably want to choke him out…he’s a black hole that rarely passes and is ALWAYS out of position–the book is out, let -7 shoot and “get his” and the rest of his team will suck–it’s that simple, he scores empty baskets and every second he’s on the court the other squad is all but guaranteed a W!!!

  • Jamshid

    2nd game in a row in which Big Val had struggled with his rebound ( 3 in the first 1 quarter !!!) Coach should be on him about this … We don’t need to develop another AB.

    • rapTors

      Big Val is not another AB you dickhead

      • Jamshid

        You Sir, are a moron … 7 years ago, fan like you were making excuses for AB as well. All I want from my C  to defend and grab rebounds. I am going to call him out every night if he failed to do that.

        • Retardshatebargs

           shhhhhh….if u arent blaming evrything on bargs HOW DARE U!

    • FLUXLAND

      You needed this many games to see this? You are better than that Destro…err, I mean Jamshid.

      This is a Nellie ball system, rebounding or a real C are not as important as scoring.

  • Jamshid

    Don’t forget my main man Amir Johnson :) 1 good and then taking next 3-4 games off :) Lets face it, he is ONLY getting paid 6 million.

    The heart and soul of the team !! The hustle man, The energy, Blue colour, fan favourite and … time to wake up and Smell the coffee Herd.

    • roll with barney

      get it right bud Dribbles is the heart and soul of this team.

  • Raptorss_Fan

    Bargnani only had about 3 or 4 shots in the 2nd half, what the hell was that

    • footie

       the wings  had it going 😉

    • Retardshatebargs

       another idiot on some other site is furious that bargs had 19 first half then states’bargs did his dissapearing act yo”……meanwhile.hows he gonna put up numbers getting 3 shots…….morons.

      • Raptorss_Fan

        look im all for riding the hot hand, the ‘point’ guards didnt do a proper job of distributing the ball efficiently

  • Retardshatebargs

    its comical….every basket the opposing team gets now you have some fucking retard idiot faggot blaming bargs…….i cant wait for us to trade bargs to a team with a real fan base and not these idiot lil jerkoffs.

  • rapTors

    It’s too late to do anything, even if you trade AB and Calderon, BC has crippled the org. with a bunch of other trash like DeMar’s contract, Landry Fields, Amir, and traded away a draft pick. You can’t trade away bad contracts unless you throw in Val or Ross so blowing it up is almost pointless. BC needs to get the fuck out Toronto as soon as possible he is already too far into his own bullshit. 

    • Retardshatebargs

       yeah….demar disappears on the regular but hes making the same cash as bargs…..that game agaisnt the spurs was the first time ive ever seen bargs shit the bed against a top team yet the outrage he’s receiving is fkn lols considering the night before he was the only one to show up……….amir,ed,demar disappear on the regular……”crickets”…..bargs first stinker,outrage…..hahahahahah……the racists are ecstatic.

  • footie

    Can somebody post Bargnani stats away from the ACC ?

  • Retardshatebargs

     …lowry and demar were putrid tonight…..theyre black so the racists give them a free pass.

    • Theswirsky

      great to see Ann Coulter posts around here

      • Retardshatebargs

         great to see monkeys learn how to use a keyboard…..now go learn how to peel a banana bitch.

        • Theswirsky

          With
          Out
          Papers

          • Sonsofanarchy

            …dumb nigger.

            • cesco

              I guess massimo over here doesn’t have any papers either.

        • pran

          can we permanently ban you? your posts make me cringe..

          • Lickmyballsufuckwit

             hey pakipran….so wop is ok in here but nigger isnt u dumb bitch?…..stfu u paki fuck….lets have a level playing field in here since pasta jokes are ok you curry eatin curry goat havin bitches.

            • Destro

              internet safe…

            • pran

              neither is ok, but I didn’t say anything to warrant that response, you’re clearly going through some stuff, hope you feel better.

            • pran

              I don’t have to explain myself to an idiot like yourself but I only mention primo pasta because bargs was in their commercial. If turkoglu was still with us and he was stinking up the place I would have told cesco: “don’t cry eat some pizza pizza” you probably would have taken the wrong way too. 

              I couldn’t care less about race, I don’t think you realize how stupid you sound, see a therapist and deal with your insecurities.  

    • Truthkiller

      The performance of bargs has nothing to do with race fanboy, its been 7 years and he can’t play any D and is being paid top player money. 

      • Retardshatebargs

        you dont make the nba without playing d and to generalize and say his 7 years he cant play is dumb…lemme guess…..youre the best on the playgroeund basketball court so you know ball better then everyone else….top money?….like bosh?…rep tdot till they bury me….go watch the dvd moron.

        • Truthkiller

          Fanboy go shit yourself, you clearly don’t know shit about basketball. And I was the best, am the best, and 1 on 1 you don’t have the skills to guard me or STOP me, so hit the gym SON!

  • Hound

    FACT: We are a bad team. FACT: We have average players, Bargs, Derozan,Lowry included. FACT: We have a bad coach. FACT: We need our all our average players to play well, to have a chance.
    This happens about once every 4-5 games. That’s how many we will win. 18 wins this year. Book it!

  • Retardshatebargs

    pau has arthritic knees yet our dumb iq challenged fans want the trade…..yeah,that’ll help us…..and some more morons want a bargs for kendrik perkins tade….lolers……a minority of our fans who are also the loudest are such idiots…….theyre so stupid its like they think they are better then bargs at basketball…..and there so dumb they actually believe it.stupid people are 2 dumb to even realize how dumb they are so they just keep poppin off…..while educated people sit there sayin….’dumb fkn retards” …..its truly comical.

  • cdub

    At least at this pace we will be headed for the top of the lottery.  Calderon will be off the books. Will probably have a new GM and coach.  Still have the amnesty.  Bell/Rogers seem willing to spend $$$. 

    I think the raps should just start playing ross with derozan.  There is just no reason to start mcquire.  Derozan can playa 3 on offense and ross can probably defend the 3 just as well as any of these other guys. 

  • Retardshatebargs

    …..if we had of signed ak47 instead of landry….didnt resign emar and packaged jose, emar and one of amir or ed for a top tier sg/sf id have some hope for this team……thats on colangelo…not bargs(like most of the retards in here wanan blame)…..hes just a piece.