The Toronto Raptors are in Texas tonight to face the Houston Rockets, and no matter what happens, I think it’s safe to say — it won’t be nearly as much fun as Tuesday night’s game against the Boston Celtics.
After all, it’s not every day you see a 19-point comeback led by four guys who don’t even have guaranteed contracts. And yeah, it’s not like the Celtics were playing their stars either, but hey — it was fun, exciting, and a refreshing burst of excitement for the preseason.
Following it up with a win tonight would be great, but I’ll be keeping my expectations low — after all, this is the moribund Houston Rockets we’re talking about.
Where to Watch:
TSN, 8:00PM EST
Toronto – Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes
Houston – Jae’Sean Tate, Tari Eason, Alperen Sengun, Kevin Porter Jr., Jalen Green
Toronto — Otto Porter Jr. (hamstring – out), Justin Champagnie (hip – out), Malachi Flynn (cheekbone – out)
Houston – Eric Gordon (rest – out); Jabari Smith Jr. (left ankle sprain – out)
Get VanVleet going
OK, so it’s the preseason, and we’re all concerned about Fred VanVleet’s minutes going into the season, as he played about a million last season and broke down by the end. But he hasn’t exactly looked polished to start the 2022-23 preseason!
VanVleet took just two shots in 10 minutes on Sunday, then fired up 12 — missing all but three — in 19 minutes on Wednesday. Even though I don’t expect him to play a lot tonight, I would really like to see a more “steady Freddy” game from him — consistent touch from range, making things happen on offense, providing steady D. As much as Dalano Banton and Jeff Dowtin have impressed in the preseason, the Raptors will still need VanVleet to carry a heavy burden. Let’s see some more polish before the real games begin!
The deep, deep bench
We all know the preseason doesn’t matter when it comes to wins and losses, but it sure as hell matters to guys who are trying to make the team and earn some guaranteed money. Dalano Banton, DJ Wilson, Josh Jackson, Gabe Brown, and Justin Champagnie are all basically fighting for two roster spots.
Heading into the season, you’d have to think Banton and Champagnie had the inside track, based on last season; so far so good for Banton, who’s shown new levels of confidence and aggression (and somehow looks even faster than last season) but Champagnie, injured since the summertime, it doesn’t look so great.
Instead, it seems to me like Jackson has the inside track after two games; he’s played well, in control, and has knocked down his shots. scoring 16 points in the fourth quarter and overtime against the Celtics sure helped! Even Brown and Wilson looked good during the comeback (despite Wilson’s less-than-ideal-attempt at a game winner with 28 seconds to go).
The non-guaranteed guys should have even more opportunities against the talent-poor Rockets.
Impressed with Koloko
I wrote about him in the Wednesday recap, but Christian Koloko is much farther along than I thought he'd be, and I hope he gets another good chunk of minutes tonight so we can continue to see him play. (I also hope he can avoid getting hit in the face! Does he have O.G. Anunoby syndrome or what?)
Koloko scored seven points against the Jazz and six against the Celtics, on a combined 6-for-9 shooting. He’s also pulled down six boards, all in about 30 total minutes. Not mind-blowing by any means, but still pretty great for a second round pick with basically zero expectations! But more than the numbers he looks like he knows what he’s doing out there — which is a low bar for sure, but that’s more than we see from a lot of guys picked a lot higher than Koloko was. They’re deer in headlights (or Bambi on ice) out there, but not Koloko, not so far.
Will he be able to keep it up in real games? Let’s be realistic — probably not. But that’s what the G League is for, and it seems to me Koloko has a really strong foundation to build upon.