I remember the first time these teams met this season. The Rockets were 3-8 and the Raptors were 3-9. And both teams really used that game as a wake-up call. The Raptors won the game and won 5 of their next 7, including wins over Boston and Oklahoma City. The Rockets, obviously, made the climb back to .500, and it really started soon after that game.
What I found hilarious about the first meeting was that the white/international players killed the Rockets. We already knew that bigs who can shoot kill the Rockets. Luis Scola is not the best perimeter defender in the world, and Chuck Hayes is also more comfortable at the rim of guarding someone posting up.
Andrea Bargnani is doubtful, which helps us a lot, as his replacement is one Joey Dorsey. It will be fun to see him, though don't expect him to get too much burn. However, he did have 7/8 against the Mavs and made both of his shots.Chuck Hayes is out for the Rockets, so it'll be a battle of the backups. Or in the Rockets' case, the backup's backup.
The Rockets face another team dealing with multiple injuries. In addition to Bargnani, Jose Calderon, Sonny Weems, and Jerryd Bayless are all questionable.
Onto the matchups...
PG: Kyle Lowry/Aaron Brooks vs. Jerryd Bayless:
Bayless is expected to start. He did play against the Mavs, and had 4/6/8 but shot a horrendous 2-10. That looks like one of my stat lines from pickup basketball.But I do like Bayless much more than Jarrett Jack, who was the starter the last time the teams met.
Entering the Toronto game earlier this season, Kyle Lowry was playing like crap and Mike was beginning to wonder if he was fully healthy. How right he was. Lowry is a different animal altogether, but I expect Brooks to play plenty, too. This would be a good game to finally give Brooks back the starting role, as the Rockets are about to face a gauntlet of good teams and having the starters and bench returned to their original states might help.
SG: Kevin Martin vs. DeMar DeRozan:
Again, what a difference a month makes. Back in November, K-Mart was playing really well, and I thought he needed to step it up. He has indeed, and it has helped the Rockets tremendously.
With no Ariza to punch Derozan, he'll probably get to the rim at will and finish with some nice attempts near the basket. He's shooting 46% from the field, which is pretty good for a wing. He also has four capital letters in his name. I mentioned that last time, but it bears repeating.
SF: Shane Battier vs. Linus Kleiza:
Kleiza was a killer the last time we saw him. He was 7-11 from the field with 17 points and had a +/- of +20. That can't happen again.
I liked that Shane game out firing against the Heat. For the Rockets to beat teams like that, we need him to space the floor and force teams to defend him. As the Rockets start this tough stretch of games coming up, Shane will be equally important as an offensive player as he normally is on defense.
PF: Luis Scola vs. Amir Johnson:
Johnson is shooting 56% from the field. That's pretty impressive. The Rockets will have to keep him in check, but he'll probably put up a decent stat line anyway.
Scola was 10-20 with 22 points against the Heat. Maybe it's just me, but I expect better from the Unclean Argentine. Just over one point per shot attempt isn't very effective, and Scola is better than that. I guess the Heat's size bothered him.
C: Brad Miller vs. Joey Dorsey:
Dorsey is starting in place of injured Bargnani. Miller will be starting in place of the injured Hayes, who was playing in place of the injured Yao Ming.
Two degrees of separation is better than one. Plus, Miller is way better than Dorsey, so that factors in a little.
And Hayes being out is killer. Anybody who thinks otherwise hasn't been watching the team. Gone as the early times in the season where fans were calling for a fire sale, with Battier, Hayes, and Lowry at 75% off. All three have come around.
Raptors: Jose Calderon (questionable), Ed Davis, Leandro Barbosa, Julian Wright
Rockets: Courtney Lee, Jordan Hill, Jared Jeffries, Chase Budinger, Terrence Williams, Patrick Patterson, Aaron Brooks/Kyle Lowry
Raptors: Andrea Bargnani doubtful, Jose Calderon questionable, Jerryd Bayless questionable, Sonny Weems questionable
Rockets: Yao out, Hayes out
Prediction: Rockets give me a birthday gift, win. They have five advantages, and the other is even.
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