The Raptors have never beaten the Chicago Bulls in Franchise history (I’m not looking up if this is true, just go with it). So on the heels of another soul-crushing defeat in the windy city, the Raptors head home on a back to back to take on the high flying Rockets. They’ll be up against it in this one, as the Rockets have found a new gear in the time since losing to the Raptors back on November 23rd.
Here are some things to watch for:
Who plays PF?
Lucas Nogueira has started the past two games next to Jonas Valanciunas, as Dwane Casey himself has come out and said that Pascal Siakam seems to have hit a rookie wall. Against the Rockets, who enjoy spacing teams out with Ryan Anderson as a stretch big, a lot of creative lineups will have to be deployed to keep them in check. I imagine we see some funky lineups with Norm Powell involved, maybe DeMarre Carroll at the 4 for a while, and hopefully Patrick Patterson’s availability becomes clear in the next few hours. In all though, expect the 2-centre lineups to have a quick hook if Houston starts bombing away.
How to stop James Harden?
In the previous matchup against the Rockets, the Raptors did as good as job as you could hope on James Harden. Harden is always going to be a menace in this Mike D’Antoni offence, but the Raptors did a great job funnelling him into the direction of help defence and baiting him into 12 (!!) turnovers. None of that would have happened if the Raptors didn’t have the right energy in the passing lanes, and the foresight to make those reads. On the heels of an overtime game last night, tired legs may come into play, and that does not favour a Raptors defence that needs to be hyper alert when the ball is in James Harden’s hands.
Long range barrage
The Rockets lead the league in three-point attempts per game at 40, which is 7 higher than the next highest team. Add in the fact that they’re also top-10 in terms of accuracy in that department, and you see the foundation for just how potent their barrages can be. Eric Gordon, Harden, Trevor Ariza, and Anderson all take at least 6.8 attempts per game, with Anderson and Gordon shooting above 40% from 3, and Ariza at 37%. They are scary good offensively, and if the Raptors fail to recover effectively from last night, this could get ugly.
Where to watch: 6 PM EST, Sportsnet One