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Raptors vs. Rockets: A good test for a struggling Toronto defense

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The Raptors' defense has struggled of late, and they're in for a good test tonight against a one-dimensional Houston team.

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Raptors last played the Houston Rockets almost a year ago, on March 30, 2015. In that game, DeMar DeRozan dropped a career-high 42 points on a team destined for the Western Conference Finals. The Rockets defense struggled with DeRozan then, and a year later, with DeRozan coming off a season-high 38 points against Portland, they might really struggle with him now.

The Rockets have been ghastly on the defensive end all season. They're 23rd in the league in defensive rating and 28th in points against per game at 106.9. Their star James Harden has always been, well, disinterested on that end of the floor. The surprise has been the disintegration of the players around him. Former defensive player of the year Dwight Howard has checked out on both ends, giving us Vine-able apathy in almost every game.

Howard, who did that in last night's 108-100 loss to the Chicago Bulls, has not been shy about his desire to be traded. The Rockets haven't responded well to the inner turmoil, losing three of their last four and sitting at 30-32. Though it's questionable to what degree Houston can get fired up, I would expect them to come out hungry tonight. For the Raptors to respond, they'll need to be solid on their own end after giving up at least 95 points in all but one of the games since the All-Star break (the other came against the slowpoke Grizzlies). With the firepower to expose a lazy Rockets defense, this is definitely the night where digging in on defense will be the difference between winning and losing.

If not, expect a wild shootout, which should at least pick up the entertainment value of your lazy Sunday.

Get set up with Kevin Nimmock's preview, then get to the comments.