The Rockets begin a fairly tough 5-game homestand tonight. bookending the All-Star break with road games, it's a nice change of pace for a team that probably hasn't been in Houston much.
Game 1 of the homestand is against the Toronto Raptors, a team that Houston has had trouble beating in Canada, but not at home. Toronto has the same issue in reverse.
Here's a crazy fact: the home team has won the last 14 meetings between these teams. Both teams won the road game in 2007, but since then it's been all about home cooking. When we think of road venues being historically difficult places for the Rockets to win, we think about Philadelphia, Toronto, and Washington. Dallas and other West teams are tough, but there's a difference between losing on the road to teams that are good and teams that aren't always that good. The Raptors have fielded some poor teams in that span and Houston still lost.
Tonight's game is in Houston, though. So let's talk about that. The Rockets needed double overtime to hold off the Raptors last season in Houston after the Rockets (wait for it) were seemingly cruising and then (you know it's coming) blew a late lead and allowed the game to go to overtime.
Of course, these Raptors are good. Really good. They knocked off the NBA Champion Atlanta Hawks last night and...wait...I'm being told the Hawks haven't won the title yet? But...ESPN says they're the best team ever since they beat the Warriors. Um ESPN, please advise.
The Raptors didn't just beat Atlanta. They put the whooping on them. Winning 105-80 in Atlanta is no joke, and because of the blowout no Raptor played more than 28 minutes. That's not good for a Houston team that was in a dogfight late against Dallas.
I expect Houston to come out pissed, and I expect Toronto to come out confident. Kyle Lowry will be looking to kill Houston, and Lou Williams will keep being the player that no one thought he would be.
Oh, and is #WeTheNorth still a thing? Aren't Raptors fans tired of it? I'm not even a Raptors fan and I feel like I see that everywhere to the point where it's annoying. It's like a Cliff Paul commercial, only it doesn't completely suck and make me want to pop open a vein. But that's a different story.
As for a prediction, I expect Houston to claw their way to a win. The Raptors are riding high and have the kinds of players that could kill the Rockets, but I've predicted a lot of losses lately and it hasn't helped. The reverse jinx is over. We're almost at the point where we'll need cheerleaders to get us back on track.
Tip-off is at 7pm CST.
Raptors vs Rockets coverage