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Houston Rockets vs. Toronto Raptors game preview

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NBA: Houston Rockets at Toronto Raptors John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

It must be nice to get games off to rest, rather than to recover from injuries.

Toronto boasts one of the deepest teams in the NBA, and it has allowed them to give stars Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry rest days. Leonard is coming off three straight games of “DNP-Rest.” Of course, he’ll be back tonight to try to strengthen his MVP candidacy by guarding James Harden. After all, his most memorable regular season moment involved him hitting a three and then blocking Harden on a drive. And with Harden leading the MVP race at the moment, the time is ripe for an encore.

Of course, if Kawhi can’t get it done, Toronto can take the other ex-Spur, Danny Green, and stick him on The Beard. And Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby can step in too.

At 36-14 Toronto is tied for first in the East (percentage points technically places them second behind Milwaukee) and looking like a serious contender. Of those 14 losses, two have come against teams currently not in the playoff spots (Orlando and Detroit). I’ve watched a handful of Toronto games this season and they have all played out the same way: close game until the closing minutes when Toronto stops missing and their defense turns up to 11. My guess is that Houston won’t be in that position.

It’s hard to bet against Harden’s 30-point streak because he has to keep shooting no matter what. And when he’s not shooting, he’s getting to the line. It’s going to take a team absolutely blowing the Rockets out and referees letting obvious fouls go to keep him under 30. This could be the game, since I can imagine Toronto putting Houston away early. Part of me wishes this game was in Toronto since Houston never wins there anyway and it would be nice to get the healthy game at home. Alas, the basketball gods have not favored Houston much this season.

Houston has alternated wins and losses for their last eleven games, so with the win over the Knicks on Wednesday, this game feels like a loss due to talent discrepancy and natural patterns. Chris Paul is technically questionable for this game, but is more likely to return for Sunday or Tuesday’s games against Orlando and New Orleans, respectively.

Tip-off is at 7pm on ESPN