Rival Watch: Raptors win showdown of East and West’s best

Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) reacts after defeating the Houston Rockets in Toronto on Friday, March 9, 2018. (Christopher Katsarov/CP)

The Toronto Raptors put on a show in the first quarter before fending off a Herculean effort from James Harden in the second half to defeat the Houston Rockets 108-105 on their home court.

Entering Friday night’s contest, the questions surrounding the top teams of their respective conferences were aplenty.

Is this a possible NBA Finals preview? Can the Raptors compete with the big guns out west? Are the Rockets better than the Warriors?

With Drake, Jozy Altidore, Sebastian Giovinco and more in attendance, the city was abuzz and it translated into an incredible performance from Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and the rest of the team.

The American media got a preview of what Toronto is like when the playoffs come around and here’s what they had to say about it:

ESPN – Raptors beat Rockets at their own game

The Raptors made Drake look like Nostradamus and snapped Houston’s 17-game winning streak, the longest of the NBA season, by beating the Rockets at their own game en route to a 108-105 victory. It’s the longest single-season winning streak the Raptors have ever snapped, per the Elias Sports Bureau.

Toronto torched the Rockets from 3-point range (15-of-38) while consistently chasing Houston off the 3-point line. The Rockets, who launch from long range at historic rates, matched their season low in 3s made with nine. Houston attempted only 27 3s, its second-lowest total of the season.

CBS Sports – Raptors vs. Rockets could be a nice Finals alternative to Warriors vs. Cavs

In the past, the NBA’s primetime games have featured familiar names. The Spurs, Thunder, Celtics, etc and yes the Rockets and Raptors did have a place at the table, but that’s all they had. A place at the table.

Both were plagued with narratives and deficiencies that, despite both making a conference finals, left them as after thoughts to the real contenders. Sure, they would appear in the playoffs, but then they would eventually fall off. That’s what they always do.

However, this season just feels different with both of these teams. They lead their conferences and every step backwards has been minor as they’ve pushed forward. On Friday night they gave a taste of what a potential seven game series could look like between the two.

Since the NBA has yet go to a 1-16 seeding format, the only way to see both of these teams in the playoffs is an NBA Finals series. This could be the exact breath of fresh air a lot of basketball fans want.

Houston Chronicle – Rockets’ 17-game win streak ends at 17 with loss to Raptors

From the start, the Rockets struggled to get good looks, missed the ones they got and were powerless to stop the Raptors on the other end, especially after the waves of misses.

The Raptors’ emphasis on defending the 3-point line had them drop their big men to the rim on screens, giving up mid-range shots and an occasional drive, but keeping defenders out on the perimeter.

The Rockets’ nine attempts from the 3-point line were three shy of their previous few of the season. They made just one.

Bleacher Report – Raptors waste no time getting fans into action

The Rockets and Raptors are facing similar questions heading into the postseason.

Their run of regular-season success has brought them attention, but their playoff shortcomings in recent years will lead to natural skepticism about what they can do under the NBA’s brightest spotlight.

Houston has been rolling over the competition for more than one month and is tied with the Golden State Warriors for the league’s best record (51-14). The streak had to end at some point, so losing to the best team in the Eastern Conference is no great shame.

The Raptors, meanwhile, are doing everything in their power to put the past behind them. They have swept the regular-season series against Houston, and while they still have a lot of work to do, there’s no doubt they are trending in the right direction.


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