The Toronto Raptors are the hottest team in the Eastern Conference, currently 8-2 in their last ten games! They are locked into 6th seed 1.5 games behind the Philadelphia 76ers. This sustained success is a revelation for a team that, at one point during the season, was 14-17, coming off a short-handed but devastating loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Now, if the Raptors continue to play at this level of success, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they could be hosting a first-round playoff series if the standings break their way during the home stretch.
After a decisive 117-98 win against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Raptors will be looking to open the season series versus Houston with a win on the road. The Houston Rockets are currently losers of their last three games and are 3-7 in the last 10. They are in the first year of what appears to be a lengthy rebuild, and while they have some interesting prospects, it’s clear the Rockets are many years away from contending for a playoff spot.
While the Raptors have fared well on back-to-backs all season with a record of 12-6 on games with no rest, three of those six losses have come on the second night. This will also be the final game of the short three-game road trip that the Raptors have been on against Western Conference opponents. If the team wants to continue to climb up the standings, beating teams that they are supposed to beat will be a big part. The Raptors should have no trouble defeating the Rockets, who have the worst record in the league and rank dead last in defensive rating. As the trade deadline looms, this may be the first game in which some new faces are added to the roster.
Where to Watch:
Sportsnet, 8:00 PM ET
Toronto – Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby
Houston — Kevin Porter Jr., Jalen Green, Jae’sean Tate, Alperen Sengun, Christian Wood
Toronto — Goran Dragic (personal – out)
Houston — Eric Gordon (heel – out), Usman Garuba(wrist – Out)
This game versus the Houston Rockets will be the first time that Scottie Barnes and Jalen Green face off against each other in their young careers in the regular season. Both players were drafted to be franchise cornerstones for their respective teams, and they have both equally impressed up to this point. They each were selected to participate in the 2022 Rising stars game in All-star weekend and for a good reason.
Scottie Barnes has been asked to do a lot for this Raptors team in his rookie season, leading all rookies in minutes per game at 36.1 and trailing only Franz Wagner in total minutes played. Although Scottie has yet to claim rookie of the month honors, he is still stuffing the stat sheet nightly with 14.8 PPG, 7.7 RPG, and 3.4 APG.
Jalen Green has had a slightly more tumultuous start to his NBA career with the Rockets. While his shooting numbers (37.7% FG and 29% 3PT) compared to his lone season with the G league Ignite (46.1% FG and 36.5% 3PT) leave much to be desired, he has shown flashes of the offensive prowess that led to him being selected with the second pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. This will hopefully be the first game of many where these two young stars face off against each other.
Trade deadline decisions
This year’s trade deadline week is shaping up to be very busy with deals and news that have had clear ramifications for the Eastern Conference as a whole and for the Toronto Raptors as a team. Many of the targets that the Raptors have been speculated to go after have been moved or are clearly no longer on the market due to trades that have already been made.
The Indiana Pacers were one of the teams that Raptors fans were hoping to make a deal with before Thursday’s deadline. The Pacers had multiple players that could have helped the Raptors with their most prominent problems on the roster; bench depth and rim protection. But after the Pacers made two deal’s – first trading Caris Levert to the Cleveland Cavaliers in what appeared to be a salary dumping move and then following it up by shipping off Domantas Sabonis, Jeremy Lamb, and Justin Holiday in a blockbuster deal to acquire rising star Tyrese Haliburton – it appears that they have chosen to keep Myles Turner as a building block for their team while clearing the log jam they had at the forward positions. Turner had been speculated as a target that would instantly fix the Raptor’s clear needs at the centre position, while Lamb was also looked at as an under-the-radar trade target that could add scoring to a bench lacking offensive options.
Reports have also come out that the Raptors were rebuffed in their pursuit of Jakob Poeltl from the San Antonio Spurs. With the trade deadline of Thursday at 3:00 p.m. fast approaching, the Raptors are running out of time to find the right deal to bring in productive players to help this team win. General manager Bobby Webster spoke to the media recently about the Raptor’s willingness to take on a long-term contract and the uniqueness of Goran Dragic’s expiring $19.4 million contract. With teams ahead of the Raps in the standings like the Cleveland Cavaliers making moves to strengthen their roster and the Philadelphia 76ers looking to be active at the deadline, the onus is on the Raptors to make a move that makes sense for the team.
Deadline deals are something we have grown familiar with over the recent years through the acquisition of Gary Trent Jr. in 2021, Marc Gasol in 2019, and Serge Ibaka in 2017. There is a chance that this team could look very different by the time they take on the Houston Rockets at 8:00 p.m.