DeMar DeRozan and the Toronto Raptors begin their first game of back-to-back as they face off against James Harden and the Houston Rockets. The last match up between the 2 teams took place in Toronto and resulted in the Rockets ending the Raps’ 12 game winning streak at the ACC, 113-107.
However, the score doesn’t tell the story of the game. The Raps were leading for most of it and allowed the Rockets to rally behind James Harden’s 40 points. This cannot happen again. The boys from the Six need to focus tonight and get back on the winning track after suffering a loss to hands of the Boston Celtics, without Kyle Lowry. Let’s take a look at Cage’s keys to the game.
Lock Down Harden
James Harden has been an offensive monster this season. He’ll never win defensive player of the year, but he is lethal when the ball is in his hands. The Beard is averaging 28.5 points, 6.3 boards and 7.4 assists per game this season. That’s MVP-worthy numbers and if his team were in a better position in the standings, Harden would most definitely be a candidate for the award this year. Whether it’s DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell, or James Johnson, Toronto cannot afford to let Harden get the hot hand.
Get to the line
Houston plays a physical game, as evidenced by their 22.1 foul rate per game. This is the second most of all 30 teams. Luckily, we have a guy who specializes in getting to the free throw line. DeMar DeRozan averages almost 9 attempts at the charity stripe. He leads the charge as the whole team averages just a hair over 27 free attempts a game. If DeMar can drive to the basket, the Rockets will do the rest.
Houston has a hard time taking care of the ball. The Rockets average about 16 turnovers per game. If the Raps can anticipate passing lanes, play solid defense and read Houston’s offense, this game should look a lot different from the last one between these 2 teams.
X-Factor: DeMar DeRozan
Other than looking to avenge the loss to the Rockets earlier this month, the Raps also have their star shooting guard going up against one of the best shooting guards in the league in James Harden. Last time Harden torched Toronto for 40 points. If DeMar can limit the amount of offensive opportunities Harden receives, this game will be a lot easier for the Toronto Raptors.