Talk about running into some hot teams. The Toronto Raptors will follow up playing a part in the Boston Celtics’ 12th consecutive win by visiting the the only team that could capably boast a better start to the 2017-18 season, the Houston Rockets.
The Rockets are 11-3 overall and winners of six in a row despite an extended absence for marquee offseason acquisition Chris Paul, and their offense has come along more or less as expected, ranking second in the NBA in efficiency. They get up more threes than any other team in the league which, despite ranking 24th in 3-point percentage, sees them pace the league in makes (a lesson for those worried about the Raptors’ outside shooting as they inch toward 34 percent from beyond the arc). Sell out to shut down Harden and there are 10 other players to shoot upwards of 3.5 threes per-36 minutes. Stay at home on those shooters and try your luck one-on-one with an MVP candidate.
They’ve even mustered a top-10 defense, leaving few holes for the Raptors to attempt to exploit. No team takes better care of their own glass than Houston, they rarely send opponents to the line, and they do a modest job of forcing turnovers to fuel a lethal, spaced-out attack the other way with James Harden rumbling to the rim flanked by shooters. That defensive boost can probably be attributed to some combination of old friend P.J. Tucker and long-term Raptors flame Luc Mbah a Moute, and Clint Capela is an emerging force at the rim and on the boards.
It’s another good test in a season full of them early on.
The game tips off at 8 on TSN 1/4/5 and TSN 1050. You can check out the full game preview here.
Toronto will be without Norman Powell, who will miss this game due to a right hip pointer. Powell suffered the injury in the first quarter Sunday when an Al Horford elbow – not an Aron Baynes knee – caught him in the hip. Powell was on crutches that night but ditched them by Monday and said he was hopeful to play, but a “doubtful” designation at shootaround Tuesday quickly became an “out.”
It’s unclear who will start in Powell’s place, though OG Anunoby drawing the start in the second half Sunday would point to him. The four remaining starters with Anunoby have a strong net rating in a tiny sample together so far, and it might be worth seeing how he fits there in the event the originally intended starting five never quite clicks. The other option would be to start C.J. Miles, who could probably use some time with Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan at some point so the Raptors can get some information on how that look works. It would make terrific offensive sense with a defensive tradeoff relative to Anunoby. For a night only, the Raptors may or may not want to subject Anunoby to a starting assignment against Harden, something he’d likely be up for (or neutral for, since that’s the only mood he has) but could get into foul trouble with.
Check back before tip-off for the starters. In either case, the rotation will be down to at most 11, an overdue trimming forced by injury.
UPDATE: Anunoby starts.
PG: Kyle Lowry, Delon Wright, Fred VanVleet
SG: DeMar DeRozan
SF: OG Anunoby, C.J. Miles, Alfonzo McKinnie
PF: Serge Ibaka, Pascal Siakam
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Jakob Poeltl, Lucas Nogueira
OUT: Norman Powell
905: Malcolm Miller, Lorenzo Brown, Bruno Caboclo
Chris Paul is on the comeback trail but won’t play here, with the Rockets hopeful he can suit up later this week against the Phoenix Suns. Joining him on the shelf is Nene, who is dealing with a sprained right foot. The Rockets have responded to Paul’s absence by shifting Harden primarily back to point guard and filling the void with extra minutes for the team’s wings, and Bobby Brown has received some small run helping out there. Nene was playing a humble role, anyway, and those minutes will be absorbed by the rest of the frontcourt rotation without going much deeper, though Tarik Black is the beneficiary if one has to be identified.
PG: James Harden, Bobby Brown, Demetrius Jackson
SG: Eric Gordon
SF: Trevor Ariza, Luc Mbah a Moute
PF: Ryan Anderson, P.J. Tucker
C: Clint Capela, Tarik Black, Zhou Qi, Chinanu Onuaku
OUT: Chris Paul, Nene
Rio Grande Valley: Briante Weber, Troy Williams
- Raptors 905 won a nail-biter at Hershey Centre, with yet another strong performance from Bruno Caboclo.
- Over at Vice, I wrote about Caboclo’s request to be assigned to the 905 and what it means for his NBA future.
- Kyle Lowry passed Andrea Bargnani for fourth in all-time Raptors scoring last game. He’s a far ways off Vince Carter for third in franchise scoring and behind Jose Calderon for first in assists, but he and DeMar DeRozan are both closing in on Doug Christie in steals. Lowry is mired in the longest sub-20-point game streak of his career right now, at 12 games.
- A great piece on Lowry’s cold start by Rob Mahoney of SI.
- The NBA’s Last Two Minute Report for the Celtics game revealed three blown calls, none of them the Jayson Tatum drive you’re expecting.
- Terry Rozier should have been called for a travel earlier on the possession Tatum scored at the basket on.
- DeMar DeRozan should have been called for a travel on his final field-goal attempt.
- Serge Ibaka should have been called for a loose ball foul trying to tip in the buzzer-beating rebound.
- The Raptors have another on the road before returning for a pair over the weekend. Later this month we’re giving away another pair of tickets with InTheActionSeats.com:
— Raptors Republic (@raptorsrepublic) October 21, 2017
- The Raptors are holding a design contest where fans can submit gameday graphics the team may use. Details here.
Attn: Designers: We want YOU to design our Game day graphic. Submit using #MyRapsDesign.
1st up 11/12 @ BOS
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) November 7, 2017
The Raptors are 6.5-point underdogs with a 218.5 over-under.