The Toronto Raptors snapped a five-game losing streak their last time out, but they visit the tough Houston Rockets on Friday night in a matchup between two teams just outside of the Play-In places.
The Raptors are up against an improved Rockets side, one that appointed Ime Udoka - who was an early favorite to replace Nick Nurse in Toronto - in the offseason. This clash is also a reunion with Fred VanVleet, who left in the summer after seven years as a Raptor.
|HOU Rockets -4.5
|Toyota Center, Houston, TX
|8 PM ET, Friday, February 2
|How to watch
Houston Rockets -4.5
The Raptors may be fresh from a victory, but that win in Chicago has still left them 7-17 on the road this season.
Meanwhile, the Rockets are among the best home sides in the Association, with a 17-9 record at home the foundation of their Play-In push.
We know exactly the kind of intensity that VanVleet will bring to this one and his young Rockets teammates should follow his lead.
Meanwhile, the Raptors are quite shorthanded, with no legitimate center options likely to feature, and guard Immanuel Quickley is a big absentee.
The Rockets would likely be favored by more if it wasn’t for their 3-7 record across their last 10, and the fact that center Alperen Sengun is questionable with an illness. However, that difficult run saw them meet Boston twice, plus visits to the New York Knicks and the Philadelphia 76ers.
With a four-game away trip up next, back the Rockets to wrap up a win at home with a healthy margin.
Fred VanVleet 25+ points
The former Raptor has taken a backseat in scoring this term, but that’s likely to change against his former side.
As complimentary as the guard has been about the city he once called home, he’ll be out to prove a point after a disconnected final year in Toronto.
Raptors fans know that VanVleet can get up a flurry of threes and if Sengun misses out, FVV is even more likely to focus on scoring.
VanVleet has kicked into another gear in terms of scoring on occasion this year, notching 26 points in two victories over the Denver Nuggets.
He’s topped 30 points on three occasions - all against Eastern Conference opposition. Given the extra edge to this game for VanVleet, he looks good for a big scoring night.
Under 102.5 Raptors points (+375)
The Raptors are fresh from good offensive displays against the Atlanta Hawks and the Chicago Bulls, but the Rockets are a tougher opponent to hurt.
The Raptors are lacking their best scoring guard here, while reports suggest they’re looking to promote younger, unproven players in place of some of their trade-targeted veterans.
The Raptors don’t have the height to hurt the Rockets even if Sengun is out, while you have to question how sustainable Jordan Nwora’s hot streak is. This could be a real struggle for the Raptors, especially if the Rockets are defensively locked-in.
C Jakob Poeltl (ankle), Out
PG Immanuel Quickley (quadriceps), Out
PG Markquis Nowell (hamstring), Out
C Jontay Porter (back), Doubtful
SG/SF RJ Barrett (knee), Questionable
C Steven Adams (knee), Out
F Tari Eason (leg), Out
C Alperen Sengun (illness), Questionable
Fred VanVleet meets the Raptors having put together some impressive form on both sides of the court.
Not only is he the Rockets’ lead guard, but the former NBA champion ranks 12th in defensive win shares across all players in the league heading into Friday’s meeting.
The Rockets have an impressive four players in the top 60 in that ranking, although two of them - Tari Eason and Alperen Sengun - could miss out. The other is Mississauga native Dillon Brooks, who joined from Memphis in the summer.
Both teams rank around the middle of the pack in pace and in the bottom 10 in three-point percentage. Toronto is more efficient, with the 10th-ranked overall field goal percentage as opposed to Houston's, which is ranked 25th.
Toronto likes to run in transition and spot-up to shoot, while Houston likes to involve its interior players - notably Sengun - with the team ranking in the top-10 in frequency of post-ups and on-ball screens, and first in pick-and-roll plays that end with shots by the screener.
It’s almost a year to the day since these two sides last met, with the Raptors winning 117-111 in Houston on February 3, 2023.
That was a fourth-straight victory for the Raptors over the Rockets, with Toronto losing just one head-to-head clash between the pair since 2020.
|Toronto Raptors overall wins
|Houston Rockets overall wins
This article was written by a partner sports writer via Spotlight Sports Group. All odds displayed on this page were correct at the time of writing and are subject to withdrawal or change at any time.
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