Raptors aim to snap Rockets' 5-game win streak
The Houston Rockets must reverse a trend when they visit the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday night if they want to extend their season-best, five-game winning streak.
The Rockets have lost on nine of their past 11 visits to Toronto, though the wins came fairly recently, in 2016 and 2017. The Raptors are 27-6 at home this season while Houston is 16-16 on the road.
On the plus side for the Rockets, they have won their past three games away from Houston overall and seven of their past road 10 contests.
Houston defeated the Celtics 115-104 in Boston on Sunday with James Harden scoring 42 points before fouling out late in the game.
The Raptors lost 112-107 in overtime Sunday to the Pistons in Detroit, but they have won nine of their past 11 games. Kawhi Leonard, who made the winning shot against the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday, sat out Sunday because of "load management."
Kyle Lowry scored a season-best 35 points against Detroit. The Raptors have twice lost this season to the Pistons, coached by Dwane Casey, who was fired by Toronto at the end of last season.
An encouraging trend for the Rockets has been getting players back from injury absences.
"We're finally healthy," said Harden, who has scored 40 or more points 24 times this season. "We're winning, guys know their roles, we're executing defensively, we're helping each other out, we're talking. ...
"It was kind of tough before because we had so many guys out," Harden said. "Chris (Paul) missed a few weeks Clint (Capela) missed a few weeks. We had guys in and out of the lineup. It feels really, really good to have a full roster and catch a rhythm. And this is the perfect time for it."
Kenneth Faried (bruised left hip) was a late scratch Sunday because of soreness and he joined Iman Shumpert (sore right calf) on the sideline.
Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni, however, was happy to be dealing with day-to-day injury issues.
"I'm pretty comfortable with 'maybe,'" D'Antoni said. "Our main core is now healthy. That's been the biggest problem. It happens to all teams. This year was a little more weird, but guys are used to it and give what they've got. We've got enough."
Houston is 19-9 this season when Capela, Harden and Paul play together.
In the teams' first meeting this season, the Rockets never trailed and held on to defeat the Raptors 121-119 in Houston on Jan. 25. Harden scored 35 points, and Leonard finished with 32.
The Raptors are still trying to work in newcomers Marc Gasol, Jeremy Lin and Patrick McCaw as they prepare for what they hope is a long playoff run.
"I think we're still a long ways away from being in the playoff mode," said Gasol, who was acquired last month in a trade with the Memphis Grizzlies. "We're still trying things and feeling out some things offensively and defensively that can work for us. At this point, we're not thinking about other teams. We're working on our own stuff and seeing what combinations of guys, schemes, plays work. We're not at that (playoff) point yet."
Lowry likes working with Gasol.
"Just give him the ball and I just make the cut," the Raptors point guard said. "That's how good he is. He's going to make the right play. To be honest with you, it's kind of easy. ... You've got a guy who can shoot the 3 and make some passes, score over top, bang inside, and late-game, late-clock, if we make the right cut, he's going to make the right pass. It's a lot of options he has."
--Field Level Media
Updated March 5, 2019