After crushing the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night, the Toronto Raptors will try to keep things rolling against the Houston Rockets on Sunday afternoon.
“Ugly,” Alan Anderson said of Toronto’s 117-101 road loss against the Rockets in late November. “They protected their home, which they should have did. We’ve got to do the same.”
If the Raptors are hoping to protect their house and notch another victory, they’ll have to stall James Harden. Averaging 24.8 points per contest, calling Harden a handful would be an understatement. Still, the Raptors are going into the game with some momentum. Where does that come from with a 5-19 record? Anderson explained how keeping O.J. Mayo to just 10 points and eight field goal attempts on Friday has provided the team with a much-needed dose of confidence.
“That’s a big confidence booster as a team because we know what we’re capable of doing when we stick to our game plan and we’re committed to it,” he said. “We committed to it yesterday for four quarters. We seen what happens when we don’t play for four quarters and we see when we do.”
Coach Dwane Casey stressed the importance of sticking with Harden and trying to make things difficult for him. Defeating the Rockets won’t be as simple as containing Harden, though. They’re a team that can put up a lot of points in a hurry.
“Multiple efforts, getting out to shooters, scramble situations, make sure you get the ball under control in their multiple pick-and-roll situations is going to be huge,” Casey said of what needs to be done against the Rockets.
“It’s going to be multiple efforts getting out to the shooters…A lot of times, they have the two man, who is Harden, handling the ball in the pick-and-roll so that presents an issue for you. And they have the four man stretched out in a different spot, which is an issue. It’s different. Again, we worked on that. We want to be crisp and be precise on what we do as far as our tags and closeouts and again, keeping our nose to the grind and doing it as a team. It’s not one guy going to stop Harden; it’s going to be a team.”
The Rockets will be without Patrick Patterson who will miss the game with a bone bruise on his right foot while the Raptors will continue to roll without Andrea Bargnani (elbow) and Kyle Lowry (triceps).
Jonas Valanciunas will have his hands full trying to deal with Omer Asik, but will at least know what to expect going in after playing against him during that loss in November.
“He did a decent job last time, but the key with Jonas is anticipation,” Casey said. “Anticipate where to be, how to get there, and his timing. And that’s where he’s still learning as an NBA defensive centre, because once he gets there he’s pretty effective but just the timing of getting there is where he’s still learning. And again, like I said yesterday, you can’t wave a magic wand to give him that experience.”
Beyond the basketball court, Casey spoke about the return of Rockets coach Kevin McHale to the bench after the tragic passing of his 23-year-old daughter, Alexandra "Sasha" McHale. While the two will be on opposite sides tomorrow, both fathers are on the same team when they leave the arena.
“It’s going to be good to see him just to know what he’s been through with his family,” Casey said. “I know his family, spent time with his family. Kevin’s a good man, a good basketball man, a good father. He’s meant a lot to this game and he’s a Hall of Famer but more than that he’s a hall of fame father and that’s far more important than anything we’re doing out here on the floor.”