Houston is currently riding a six-game win streak and sit first in the Western Conference with an 11-3 overall record, including an opening night win at Oracle Arena against the Golden State Warriors, and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Rockets have done this all without the services of nine-time All-Star point guard Chris Paul, who hasn’t been in action since the team’s first game.
James Harden is making another solid case for MVP averaging 30.2 points (third in the NBA) and 10.2 assists per game (first in the NBA) on 45.4 percent shooting from the field while Eric Gordon has filled nicely into Paul’s place with nearly 23 points per game.
Clint Capela — drafted five spots after Bruno Caboclo — continues to get better averaging 13.3 points, 11.5 rebounds, and nearly two blocks per contest. His field goal percentage of 69.6 percent leads all NBA players.
Here are all the details and three things to watch out for in tonight’s game:
Where to Watch:
8:00 PM EST
Toronto - Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, OG Anunoby / CJ Miles, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas
Houston - James Harden, Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson, Clint Capela
Toronto - Norman Powell
Houston - Chris Paul, Nene Hilario
Who starts for Powell?
The Raptors’ starting small forward left Sunday’s game against the Celtics with a hip pointer injury and isn’t expected to play after reportedly leaving the locker room on crutches.
Raptors forward Norman Powell (hip) leaves the locker room on crutches and is walking very slowly.— Clevis Murray (@ClevisMurray) November 12, 2017
OG Anunoby or CJ Miles will likely take Powell’s place but one has to think that this may be an opportunity for head coach Dwane Casey to reward the rookie’s strong play thus far.
Anunoby wasn’t expected to have a significant role this early so soon after tearing his ACL in his final season of college basketball, but is ahead of schedule in both aspects.
Casey doesn’t like messing much with his second unit and removing Miles from that would take away its primary scorer.
The 60-year-old showed a lot of faith in Anunoby as the former Hoosier was turned to for crunch time minutes against the Celtics and tasked with guarding a red-hot Jrue Holliday down the stretch against the New Orleans Pelicans last Thursday.
Anunoby has shot a respectable 36.7 percent from downtown and while it’s a small sample, it’s higher than Powell (30.8 percent) on slightly less attempts.
Houston’s 3-point barrage
Going into the season, the Raptors’ “culture reset” included making the three-point shot an integral part of their overall offence and there isn’t any better example than their opponent on Tuesday night.
Last season, the Rockets broke the single-season NBA record for three-pointers made becoming the second team to break the 1,000 barrier in as many seasons after the Warriors accomplished the same feat the season before.
Houston also set single-game records for three-pointers made (24) and three-pointers attempted in a half (31) and in a game (61).
In doing so, the Rockets may have laid down the blueprint for success in the NBA as teams like themselves and the Raptors continue to search for ways to take down the Warriors.
Houston leads the NBA in three-point field goals made and attempted per game with more than half of their overall field goal attempts coming from beyond the arc.
While they are only in the bottom third of the league making 34 percent of their attempts from downtown, the Raptors still need to pay attention to shooters like Harden, Gordon, and Ryan Anderson who are more than capable of catching fire in a hurry.
Iso ball, late-game rotations
The Raptors lost another close game where they simply reverted to their predictable late-game isolation offence.
Everyone in the building knows that DeRozan is taking the last shot whenever the game is on the line for the Raptors, especially with Lowry’s early season struggles.
In the last 5 minutes of games this season where the Raptors are behind by up to 5 points or tied, DeMar DeRozan has a 52.7% usage rate, 30% true shooting, and a -41.6 net rating.— Anthony Doyle (@Anthonysmdoyle) November 12, 2017
There’s no problem with leaning on your stars in the clutch but Toronto can’t simply be turning to their All-Star guards for almost every single possession in the last five minutes of a game.
The challenge for Casey and his staff has long been finding a way to be more creative down the stretch and if they can’t, they’ll continue to lose close games in the manner they did against the San Antonio Spurs three weeks ago and the Celtics last Sunday.
Player rotations were also in question as Miles was left on the bench for large chunks of the fourth quarter in favour of Fred VanVleet.
With all due respect to VanVleet, Miles was brought in to be the sharpshooter that team lacked and is one of the game’s finest. His absence on the floor doesn’t help when DeRozan and Lowry are trying to generate offence. Opponents will happily allow VanVleet to beat them rather than allowing the All-Star duo get their way.
Lowry looks off an open VanVleet, swings the ball to DeRozan, who isolates and misses a mid-range J. That's why you need Miles out there in that situation— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) November 12, 2017
To be clear: my issue is not with the play call here. Again, most teams run ISO for their best players at the end of games. Issue is looking off a wide-open shooter in that situation. If he's on the floor, have to trust him to make a play https://t.co/5GJZ223ral— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) November 12, 2017