Game Preview: Raptors vs. Rockets
Holly MacKenzie - Raptors.com
Houston Rockets (51-13) @ Toronto Raptors (47-17)
When: Friday, March 9th, 7:30 P.M. ET
Where: Air Canada Centre
Broadcast info: SN/SN1, TSN1050
Toronto last saw the Rockets in Houston, defeating the home team 129-113 in early November. DeMar DeRozan scored 27 points to lead the Raptors, who used a huge 45-point second quarter to build a 76-64 lead at the halftime break. Toronto never looked back in the second half, and Houston never got closer than five points down the stretch as the Raptors snapped a six-game Rockets winning streak. James Harden led all scorers with 38 points, making a perfect 19-for-19 from the free throw line in the loss.
LEADING INTO TONIGHT'S GAME
Injury report: OG Anunoby (sprained right ankle) is listed as out and Delon Wright (sprained right big toe) as doubtful for Friday's game. For the Rockets, Ryan Anderson (left hip soreness) is listed as doubtful, and Brandan Wright (right knee soreness) is not with the team.
Playoffs clinched: The Raptors defeated the Detroit Pistons 121-119 in overtime on Wednesday, becoming the first NBA team to secure a playoff berth. This is the earliest date Toronto has ever qualified for the postseason and the fewest number of games played (64) to qualify.
Home court: The Raptors take on the Rockets on the Air Canada Centre floor on Friday, where they are an NBA-best 27-5 this season. Toronto is averaging 112.8 points per game at home, and 11.7 thee-point field goals. The Rockets lead the NBA in made three-pointers per game, averaging 15.5 per contest.
Dominant DeRozan: DeMar DeRozan played one of the best games of his career against the Pistons, punctuated by a thunderous dunk with 4.6 seconds remaining that became an immediate frontrunner for Dunk of the Year. DeRozan scored 42 points (16-for-28 field goals) to go with four rebounds and six assists in 43 minutes. In overtime, with the game on the line and the ball in his hands, DeRozan again drove to the hoop, passing to Fred VanVleet for a long two to give Toronto the lead -- and the win -- with a second remaining.
Passing point guard: Kyle Lowry had a 15-point, 15-assist double-double in Wednesday's victory in Detroit. This was a season-high in assists for Lowry, and it snapped a streak of 446 consecutive games for Toronto without a player reaching 15+ assists. The Raptors as a whole had 33 assists on 45 made field goals, moving the team to 40-10 on the season when recording at least 20 assists in a game.
Rockets on fire: Houston comes to Toronto having won 17 straight games. The Rockets defeated the Milwaukee Bucks 110-99 on Wednesday, behind James Harden's 26 points. Harden is averaging a league-high 30.9 points per game to go with 8.9 assists, 5.2 rebounds and 1.93 steals per game. It has been all but impossible to stop him this year, so the Raptors will do their best to slow him. Harden has scored at least 20 points in a half 25 times this season.