James Harden comes to Toronto with his famous, angry running mate (Chris Paul), a collection of players that are not Trevor Ariza, and Clint Capela. After igniting OG Anunoby’s career last year, Harden has put together one of the most significant and impressive scoring seasons we’ve ever been witness to. Looking at a team that will likely concede a few switches, Harden will be attempting to disassemble the Raptors defense. The Rockets are on a 5-game winning streak and are fending off the surging Jazz, while laughing at the Lakers in 10th place. They’ve got plenty incentive to enter the extra gear in this game.
Harden’s put up two consecutive games of hoisting up 18 triples – shortly after he missed 22 straight triples – one of which featured a total of 58-points. The last time the Raptors faced Harden he was coming off of a 61-point performance and was without the aforementioned Paul or Capela. The Raptors limited the Rockets to 10 threes on 46 attempts in that one, but in this one I’d expect a lot more play toward the rim, and a challenging night for Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka – also, one mid-range shot for a whole game is nuts. Morey-ball is something else. Could you imagine telling Kawhi that he couldn’t take any more mid-range shots?
Speaking of the big men, look to Ibaka to make the start in this one. He’ll try to contend with the springy Capela on defense and move him away from the basket on offense. The former shouldn’t be too difficult, as Capela hasn’t been getting many looks on offense of late. A big rebounding game from Ibaka (think of the Brooklyn game against Jarrett Allen) could be massive for the Raptors in this one. Ideally, the move to the starting line-up will shake Ibaka out of his mini-funk, he’s been the Raptors most consistent player this year (maybe Siakam) and he’s vital to the versatility in matchups that the Raptors need.
As far as Leonard’s offense goes, look for PJ Tucker to defend him. The Rockets will likely choose to stop Leonard’s “bully ball” and shade him heavily with the help-side. Last time out he had six assists against the Rockets defense, finding his pal Danny Green behind the arc as he swooped in and out of the open pockets on the floor. If Leonard can properly manipulate the help-side and find the Raptors shooters (Lowry, Green, Siakam), we could be in for a very fun game.
The Raptors had a woeful start the last time these two teams faced each other, falling behind by as much as 22 in the first half, playing catch up the whole game and never grabbing the lead. Let’s hope for a start that emulates the Trailblazers game as opposed to the Pistons one.
Lowry will build off of his de-facto ‘KLOE’ game against the Pistons and thoroughly win his matchup against the ‘Point-God’, Chris Paul. He’s been electric going to the rim as of late (especially in transition) and I think the pressure he’ll put on the Rockets defense in addition to Leonard will tip the scales in the Raptors favour. Also, Siakam is gonna hit 3 triples, for sure.
“This is a storied franchise in Detroit. There are three championship trophies you see every time you walk into the building. It’s not like Toronto, where they’ve never tasted it. The fans in Detroit, they know what a championship is all about, and it’s like, let’s get this thing back on track.” – Dwane Casey
TV: TSN | Radio: TheFan590 | Tipoff: 8PM EST
Fred VanVleet (thumb) remains sidelined.
PG: Kyle Lowry, Jeremy Lin, Jordan Loyd
SG: Danny Green, Norman Powell
SF: Kawhi Leonard, Patrick McCaw, Malcolm Miller
PF: Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby
C: Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol, Chris Boucher
Kenneth Faried (hip) and Iman Shumpert (calf) are listed as questionable.
PG: Chris Paul, Austin Rivers
SG: James Harden, Gerald Green
SF: Eric Gordon, Vince Edwards, Daniel House
PF: PJ Tucker, Gary Clark
C: Clint Capela, Nene Hilario (Eric Koreen’s old twitter avi)
A win against the Rockets and Harden would massage away a lot of the leftover angst from the Pistons game.
Have a blessed day.