Game Preview: Raptors @ Rockets

Holly MacKenzie -

Following a pair of back-to-back losses in Sacramento and Los Angeles, the Raptors look to get on track in Houston against the Rockets on Wednesday night. Houston is on a three-game winning streak and playing well to start the season behind a stellar start from James Harden.

Tip-off: 8:00 P.M. ET

Broadcast Info: TSN / SN590


Defensive difficulties

Dwane Casey has always been about defence before anything else. Through training camp, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan followed their coach’s lead saying that anything thing the team accomplished this year would start with their defensive effort. Through 14 games, the team has shown it has little problem scoring, but things have been less than ideal on the other end of the floor. The Raptors have given up 100+ points in their last eight games and Lowry wants that to change.

“I think we could all play better defence individually,” Lowry said. “I think we can all hold ourselves accountable and I think we all want to be good defender[s] but we have to do it as a team. There’s a lot of guys in this league that you can’t guard one-on-one, you have to have five guys, 10 guys on him.”

A season ago, one of the team’s best defenders was Bismack Biyombo. After Biyombo signed with the Orlando Magic during the offseason, Lowry stressed the importance of being on purpose with defensive coverages. Moving forward, defensive communication is a must on the floor.

“I said when we started camp we have to be a second earlier [defensively],” Lowry said. “We lost an elite defensive player and we have to find ways to make up for that. I think we got to be a little tighter, communicate better. From top to bottom, especially from the point guard position. We just have to be a lot better as a team and as a cohesive unit.”

Patterson aiming for consistency

Patrick Patterson had his two best games of the season in the team’s recent back-to-back situation. Prior to the games in Sacramento and Los Angeles, he has struggled to get in a groove offensively. In Sunday’s loss against the Kings, Patterson scored 11 points to go with five rebounds, an assist and a steal. He followed it up with a 14-point, six-rebound, two-assist, two-steal performance against the Clippers.

Even when Patterson isn’t hitting his shots, his impact is felt when he’s on the floor, but when he’s able to also provide a spark off the bench it makes things that much easier for the starters. Despite two strong performances, Patterson isn’t ready to hear any praise yet.

“Until I do this 15 games in a row, then there will be some satisfaction,” he said when asked if he felt personal satisfaction with his scoring over the previous two contests. “If I do this 15 more times in a row, then you can ask me that.”

Rockets, Harden difficult to contain

Pairing James Harden with Mike D’Antoni looks to be an ideal offensive match. Through 14 games, the Rockets are 9-5, averaging 108.4 points per game. Harden is fourth in the league in scoring, putting up 28.6 points while also leading the league in assists, dishing 12.4 dimes per game. Like Toronto’s previous game against the Clippers, the Rockets are not the ideal opponent to face when hoping to get the defence back on track but slowing Harden should mean slowing the Rockets. It just hasn’t been very easy to do so.

Harden is shooting 46 percent from the floor, 37 percent from three, and 81 percent from the line where he averages 10.1 free throw attempts per game. In addition to his 28.6 points and 12.4 assists, he’s also averaging 7.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game.

With D’Antonio encouraging him to take the lead and create for himself and his teammates, this version of Harden is as lethal as any we’ve seen before. The matchup between childhood friends Harden and DeRozan (averaging 30.9 points per contest and 9.6 free throw attempts per game) will be one to watch.

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