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Houston Rockets vs. Toronto Raptors game preview

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

First things first: I really hope this game isn’t a Players Only game, considering that the concept has failed time and time again but the NBA and TNT continue to shove it down our throats. A bunch of former players saying things like “I’d love to have Taj Gibson on my roster” and “Andre Iguodala is a good player” contributes nothing to the game that is going on. Players Only is so bad that I’d rather have TNT’s slew of regular color commentators, and those guys are all terrible as well.

The Toronto Raptors are coming off a loss to the Detroit Pistons that could really hurt them in the final standings. With Kawhi Leonard resting before the Houston game once again, the Raptors fell to three back in the loss column of the Milwaukee Bucks and do not hold the tiebreaker either, effectively giving the Bucks a four game cushion atop the East. And if you’re a “James Harden should be the MVP” truther, then that’s some bad news since “Giannis is the best player on the best team” is an easy narrative for the media to cling to in their never-ending quest to discredit Harden.

The Rockets are coming off a big win in Boston where they finally held onto a sizable lead. Obviously, Houston didn’t make life easy. After holding a 28-point second half lead, they allowed the Celtics to climb within eight points before a James Harden dagger and some stellar defensive plays from Eric Gordon and P.J. Tucker ended the game.

The difference between third and sixth place in the West is separated by two losses. The bad news for Houston is that Portland Trail Blazers is playing really well right now and hold the tiebreaker over the Rockets. The good news is that barring some craziness down the stretch, Houston will hold the tiebreaker over the Utah Jazz if they hold onto the top spot in the Southwest Division. The Oklahoma City tiebreaker is still up in the air, but it won’t be decided until the last game of the season, which could be a real thorn in Houston’s side.

This is a big one for the Rockets, but with the win over the Celtics, the good guys have a bit of breathing room on this stretch. With the Philadelphia 76ers coming to town on Friday, Houston has a chance to establish some momentum heading into the final weeks of the season. Expect Danny Green to hit 7 triples in this game because by my personal experience he has never missed a shot against the Rockets and the actual box scores from those games are lying.

For Houston, Iman Shumpert and Kenneth Faried are still day-to-day. Toronto is missing Fred VanVleet as he continues to recover from thumb surgery he underwent in mid-February.

Tip-off is at 7pm CT on TNT