Game Preview: Houston Rockets vs Toronto Raptors

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Riding high on a 7 game win streak, the Rockets are 29-9 on the season, as they head up to Toronto for their second game against Canada's team. The Rockets are led in scoring, assists and rebounds by James Harden, at 27.9 points, 11.9 assists, and  8.2 rebounds a game. The Rockets are ranked 3rd in offensive rating, 16th in defensive rating, and 4th in net rating.

The Raptors, coming off of an overtime loss to the Chicago Bulls, have the second best record in the east, at 24-12, losing four of their last six games. The Raptors are led in scoring by DeMar DeRozen, at 27.6 points, in assists by Kyle Lowry, at 7.2 assists, and in rebounding by Jonas Valanciunas, at 9.5 rebounds per game. The Raptors rank extremely similarly to the Rockets, at 2nd in offensive rating, 17th in defensive rating, and 3rd in net rating.

Starting Lineups

As the Rockets endure another game without Clint Capela the starters for Sunday's game will be: James Harden at point guard, Patrick Beverley at shooting guard, Trevor Ariza at small forward, Ryan Anderson at power forward, and either Nene Hilario or Montrezl Harrell at center, with Eric Gordon getting starter’s minutes.

After missing Saturday night's game, Raptors sixth man, Patrick Paterson, is questionable to play in Sunday's match-up. The Raptors will start the game with Kyle Lowry at point guard, DeMar DeRozen at shooting guard, DeMarre Carroll at small forward, Paskal Siakam at power forward, and Jonas Valanciunas at center.

Three Things to Watch

  • KLOE (Kyle Lowry Over Everything) – If anyone had told me the short chubby point guard the Rockets traded for back in 2009 would become a full blown superstar, I would've laughed at you. He has. Kyle Lowry is currently averaging nearly 23/7/5 on 47.5%/43.8%/84.4% shooting splits. Watch to see how Lowry performs against his old team and how far he has come since 09.

  • Battle for pace – The Raptors like to play pretty slow, 20th in pace, while the Rockets play fast, at 4th in the league. Watch to see which team is able to control the pace of the game, as that team will likely have the upper hand down the stretch.

  • Turnover battle – The biggest difference between the two teams is the rate at which they turn the ball over. The Raptors are the 2nd best team in the NBA at taking care of the ball, while the Rockets are the 26th. Watch to see if the Rockets are able to limit their turnovers, because the Raptors are not a team that is going to give them back.

Prediction and Tip-Off

This will be a tight game. I predict a Rockets loss, as the Raptors are hungry for a win, to get out of their slump, and the Rockets are due for a stinker of a game any day now.

Tip-off will be at 5:00 P.M. Central Time in Toronto on Sunday, January 8th. The game will be televised on ROOT Sports, with the radio broadcast on Sports Talk 790-AM.

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