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Gameday: Raptors vs Rockets, October 11

Look, it's preseason and I just want to see what this team will do when they kick off their 2021-22 campaign right from where they should've been all of last season... right here in Toronto. Win, lose or draw, this is going to be one of the most exciting teams to watch all year.

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Via: Chris O'Meara/AP

Ok. Alright. That’s fine. Okay.

Yeah, that’s how I’m feeling now that the Raptors have more losses than wins in their preseason.

Look, the 76ers are expecting to win games and the Celtics are in a weird place where nobody really knows what’s going on in Boston. The Raptors pulled out a W in one of three games. But I’m looking forward to seeing how these pieces play when they’re fully integrated. So far I’ve seen OG Anunoby become a shot creator, I’ve seen Fred VanVleet add a floater to his game, I’ve seen Scottie Barnes dictate the offense and lead Gary Trent Jr. into a basket. I haven’t even mentioned Dalano Banton knowing what to look for every time he has the ball or Svi Mykhailiuk knocking down every (not literally) shot like he’s the king of whack-a-mole.

The Houston Rockets are in town and it looks like they have a young backcourt that could give you a run for your money. Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr. are going to be really good and that’s a problem for the rest of the league. Add Christian Wood to the mix and I hate to admit it but Houston has an intriguing young core. In the post-James Harden era of Rockets basketball, it seemed as though the franchise might pivot and opt for a defense-first philosophy. But, that’s just not going to happen. By no means will Houston contend for a championship any time soon but that doesn’t mean they’re not quick enough to leave you lying in the dust.

It’s a good thing Toronto has a defense that can guard any team, regardless of positions. Length, strength, quickness, and versatility. That’s what the Raptors are putting up against the Rockets when they collide at the Scotiabank Arena tonight. Here’s what the Raps should prioritize if they want to pull even in the win-loss columns.

Prevent takeoff

The Rockets have a win against the the Washington Wizards and a loss to the Miami Heat. However, they’ve managed to score over 100 points in both games. So in order to keep them grounded, Toronto needs to clamp down on their defensive assignments. Houston’s going to score the bucket no matter what. But where they thrive is in the paint, drawing fouls. So far in the preseason, the Rockets lead the league in free throw attempts at 35. It’s not a huge concern given that they only shoot 64 percent from the charity stripe but they could have a good night and convert well above that.

Box out

Houston is one of the best in the league at cleaning up the offensive glass with 13 offensive boards per game. Toronto has the strength and quickness to ensure that Houston doesn’t dominate them on the boards. I’ll bet some cash that we’ll see Fred box out at least one of those two.

Toronto’s Lineup

Khem Birch is no longer in health & safety protocols but his status for tonight’s game is unknown. Pascal Siakam (shoulder), Chris Boucher (finger), and Yuta Watanabe (calf strain) are out.

PG: Fred VanVleet, Malachi Flynn, Goran Dragić

SG: Gary Trent Jr., Svi Mykhailiuk, Sam Dekker, Justin Champagnie, David Johnson

SF: OG Anunoby, Dalano Banton, Isaac Bonga

PF: Scottie Barnes, Ish Wainright

C: Precious Achiuwa, Freddie Gillespie, Reggie Perry

Houston’s Lineup

Eric Gordon (Ankle) and Jay’Sean Tate (Back) are listed as game time decisions. John Wall is sitting out while the Rockets try to deal him.

PG: Kevin Porter Jr., D.J. Augustin, Armoni Brooks, Daishen Nix

SG: Jalen Green, Josh Christopher, Dante Exum, Khyri Thomas

SF: Danuel House Jr., David Nwaba, KJ Martin

PF: Christian Wood, Usman Garuba, Anthony Lamb, Tyler Bey

C: Daniel Theis, Alperen Sengun

The Line

Raptors are favoured at 3.5 with an O/U of 222.5. I’d go with the Raptors at 4.5 and I’ve set my O/U at 230. Both of these teams score at will.