Game Preview: Raptors vs. Rockets

Holly MacKenzie - Raptors.com

The Raptors return home from a disappointing 123-118 loss in Chicago to take on the Houston Rockets at the Air Canada Centre on Sunday evening.

Tip-off: 6:00 P.M. ET

Broadcast Info: SN1 / SN590

TALKING POINTS

Rockets rolling

The Houston Rockets are looking for their eighth straight victory. The Rockets are 29-9 on the season, including 14-6 on the road, and are third in the Western Conference. They’re a handful to contain and are averaging 114.3 points per game, thanks in large part to James Harden who is averaging 27.9 points, 8.2 rebounds and 11.9 assists per game. Although slowing Harden is nearly impossible, trying to make things difficult for him will be the goal.

In addition to Harden, guarding the three-point line will be key, with Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson and Patrick Beverley all shooting better than 40 percent from beyond the arc. While the match up between Harden and DeMar DeRozan will be entertaining, the point guard battle between Beverley and Kyle Lowry will also be a fun one to watch.

Lowry picking his spots

Kyle Lowry is having a special kind of season. From offensive takeovers in the fourth quarter, to orchestrating Toronto’s efficient offence throughout the game, when the Raptors are playing to their potential, it’s because Lowry is helping lead them there. Lowry’s chemistry with his teammates and understanding of how to play to their strengths has grown over each of his five years with the Raptors.

“My first couple of years in the league, I was always a backup point guard so I came into [the game] try to change the game,” Lowry said. “Now I know I'm going to get my shots, I know I can shoot when I want, I know I'm going to have the ball. It’s about seeing what the team needs at that time. Even if a guy like DeMar’s got it going, keep him going, if JV’s got it going, Patrick [Patterson] when he’s playing, Cory [Joseph], T [Terrence Ross], whoever’s got it going, you let them eat, let it ride. I think we have a very unselfish team where nobody cares about who is successful, we just all want to win games.”

48 minutes of physicality

After a disappointing loss in San Antonio, Raptors head coach Dwane Casey spoke of wanting better starts. He also discussed the physical effort needed from his team over a full 48 minutes as the season continues to roll along.

“We should have learned from the San Antonio game how physical, how hard, how aggressive how physical you have to be on every play,” Casey said.

“When you’re touching, being physical with someone, that negates lack of strength, lack of bulk, a lot of things,” he continued. “When I can reach out and touch you and impede your speed and cut your sped down, we’ve got to learn how to do that. It’s something we’ve done well in spurts, but we’ve got to do a better job with it to be consistent.”

The team has been without Patrick Patterson over the previous three games, and is still without Jared Sullinger. From better starts, to maximum effort defensively through the full 48 minutes, with a key part of the rotation sidelined, room for error shrinks. As the team continues to shuffle lineups looking for ways to fill the void created by Patterson, paying attention to the little things is especially important.

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