Friday, April 12, 2024
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NBA Preview: Toronto Raptors (17-30) at Houston Rockets (22-25)

After scoring 130-plus points in three of the previous four games, the Houston Rockets appeared to have resolved at least one of their lingering issues while trudging through an extended rut.

But on Wednesday against the New Orleans Pelicans, the Rockets were disjointed on offense en route to a 110-99 loss that dropped them back to a season-worst three games under .500.

Houston, which missed 31 of 44 3-pointers, will complete a brief three-game homestand against the Toronto Raptors on Friday.

Jalen Green continued his recent uprising with a game-high 31 points, bumping his scoring average to 29.8 points over his last five games. But the Rockets’ leading scorer on the season, Alperen Sengun, shot 4-for-11 and was soundly outplayed by Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas. Their starting forwards, Dillon Brooks and Jabari Smith Jr., went a combined 4-for-17 from the floor.

Houston last won consecutive games on Jan. 1 and 3. Injuries to Brooks and Smith knocked the Rockets off their stride, and they have missed the all-around contributions of reserve forward Tari Eason, who has battled prolonged leg soreness. Rookies Amen Thompson and Cam Whitmore have enjoyed breakout moments, but what continues to plague the Rockets is an inability to get all of their key cogs on the same page offensive and defensively for more than two games at a time.

The Raptors certainly had an out to fold their tents on Tuesday against the Chicago Bulls.

Toronto rode a season-worst five-game losing skid into Chicago and was down a trio of starters — RJ Barrett (knee), Immanuel Quickley (quad) and Jakob Poeltl (ankle) — before falling into a 16-point, second-quarter deficit. But instead of surrendering to their obstacles, the Raptors rallied.

Ultimately, the Raptors piecemealed their way to a 118-107 win behind a somewhat unexpected cast of characters. From Gary Trent Jr. (24 points) to Bruce Brown (19 points, seven rebounds), Jordan Nwora (17 points) to Dennis Schroder (16 points, 10 assists) and Thad Young (16 points), Toronto used a collaborative approach to overcome attrition and its recent lack of success.

Trading OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam last month put Toronto in a position to punt the remainder of this season. That the Raptors found another gear of competitive spirit offered tangible proof they have not yet relented.

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