With the trade deadline mercifully in the rearview, and some depth in the form of muscle-bound playmaking forward Thad Young on the way to reinforce a thin bench, the Raptors officially turn their eye to the stretch run tonight in Houston, an eighth-straight win on the line.
The big news ahead of this one is that there will be no Fred VanVleet for the Raptors due to a sore groin. As precautionary measures go, keeping VanVleet out on the second night of a back-to-back against a team with an even worse record than the Thunder team Toronto pasted last night feels like a pretty smart one to take. With the way Pascal Siakam has played with the ball in his hands of late, Toronto should still have the juice to score on the Rockets’ league-worst defense whenever it wants, while being more than equipped to slow down Houston’s 27th-ranked attack.
Young won’t be with the Raptors either, leaving Toronto depleted for (hopefully) the last time for a while.
It’ll definitely be a shame if the Raptors can’t pull this one out, even without VanVleet and with it being the second night of a back-to-back (although the Raptors have kicked ass in similar spots this season). Wins are gonna be at a premium from now until mid-April. Boston’s current win streak is just one game shorter than Toronto’s, and Derrick White serves as a pretty substantial addition to the Celtics’ backcourt. And while the Nets still don’t have Kevin Durant, they do finally have a little certainty as to what the hell their team is going to look like for the rest of the season after swapping James Harden for Ben Simmons and Seth Curry. The terms of the for the sixth seed have been set. The dash to avoid the play-in tournament is on.
Where to Watch
Sportsnet One, 8pm EST
Toronto — Pascal Siakam, Gary Trent Jr., OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes, Precious Achiuwa
Houston — Kevin Porter Jr., Jalen Green, Jae’Sean Tate, Alperen Şengün, Christan Wood
Toronto — Fred VanVleet (sore groin — OUT),
Houston — Eric Gordon (heel — QUESTIONABLE), John Wall (hangin’ out — OUT), Usman Garuba (wrist — OUT)