- Expert analysis for Friday’s marquee match-up between the Rockets and Raptors, as well as straight up picks for all 10 games on tap.
- Can the Rockets win their 18th-straight game?
- Will the Raptors continue their dominance at home?
A couple of the NBA’s real-deal squads face off at the ACC in Toronto Friday night (7:30pm ET), as the blistering-hot Houston Rockets (51-13, 26-7 Away) meet the equally impressive Raptors (47-17, 27-5 Home) in what could be a preview of the NBA Finals.
Houston not only has the best record in the NBA, they are holding off the defending champion Warriors for tops in the West, and are riding an NBA season-best 17-game winning streak.
Not to be outdone, the Raptors are currently the class of the East, holding down first in the conference and are 9-1 in their last 10 games. Combined, these two teams have just a single loss in their last 27 games heading into this one.
That’s what you call getting it done.
Two of the NBA’s best backcourts are going to be showcased, with NBA MVP favorite James Harden and all-world point guard Chris Paul squaring off against the All-Star backcourt of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry.
Combined, these two teams have just a single loss in their last 27 games heading into this one. That’s what you call getting it done.
The Rockets bring a high-octane offense to the North side, and expect a heavy dose of high pick-and-rolls featuring Harden or Paul with Clint Capela diving down to the tin. As per usual, three-point shooters await any early defensive collapse to the paint or poor rotation.
It’s a formula that literally everyone knows is coming, but why would the Rockets change their tune, when nobody can stop them from beating their drum?
Meanwhile, the Raptors reinvented themselves on the fly, taking elements of both the Rockets and Warriors, and making their brand of basketball fun again – renewing optimism from those intense ACC fans that this team is built to last this time around.
The role players on the Rockets get high praise for their stellar mix of shooting and defensive length, but the Raptors boast a lineup that, while not as high-profile as the other elite teams, may be deeper and more talented top to bottom to complement their All-Stars.
Fred VanVleet and Delon Wright could potentially be starting somewhere else in the NBA. CJ Miles adds splash from deep while Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poeltl and Norman Powell deliver extra elements of hustle, rebounding and scoring punch to that bench depth.
The emergence of OG Anunoby as a high-end 3-and-D wing will get tested here on Harden, a nice playoff tuneup for the rookie, while Serge Ibaka (remember him?), may be still smooth enough athletically to handle Harden or Paul on a switch.
Either way, this one is going to be a dandy.
|40.9||Points In The Paint||48.2|
Notable Injuries and Absences
|Brandan Wright (knee): DAY-TO-DAY||No inured players|
|Ryan Anderson (hip): DAY-TO-DAY|
|Houston is 24-7 SU on the road||Toronto is 27-5 SU at home|
|Houston is 17-0 SU in its last 17 games||Toronto is 13-1 SU in its last 14 games|
|Houston is 2-3 SU as an underdog||Toronto is 41-12 SU as a favorite|
|Houston is 19-5 SU in non-conference games||Toronto is 16-9 SU in non-conference games|
|Houston is 27-20-1 ATS after a win||Toronto is 24-22 ATS after a win|
|Houston is 32-29-1 ATS this season||Toronto is 36-28 ATS this season|
|Houston is 20-11 ATS on the road||Toronto is 18-14 ATS at home|
Prediction: Raptors (127-123)
This is a calculated pick more than it is a vote of confidence for the Raptors. Eventually, the math catches up to you and this has all the makings of streak buster: great home team, with great shooting and pace, with a closer at the end of games in DeRozan that can score on anyone.
Toronto just happens to match up really well with the Rockets, about as well as you can expect any team outside of Golden State can. Toronto’s win in Houston earlier this season proves that.
That doesn’t for a second take away from what will be a hell of a track meet, and a chance for the Raptors to show they’re a legit final four contender, or a chance for the Rockets to take their streak to even more impressive heights.
It feels like the Rockets come out and throw the first punch, but the Raptors use that bench depth to claw back into the contest
It feels like the Rockets come out and throw the first punch, but the Raptors use that bench depth to claw back into the contest, which turns into a back and forth, with what should be a highly entertaining fourth quarter.
I just like DeRozan getting it done in the crunch, which is blasphemous considering it’s going against the league’s top scorer. Still, Raptors win.
Straight-Up Picks (March 9)
There are a batch of goodies on Friday night, highlighted by a scintillating showdown in Portland as the streaking Blazers welcome in the Warriors.
Meanwhile, LeBron and the Cavs kick off a six-game trip looking to dust the Clippers. And it’s another chance for Anthony Davis to push his way into the MVP race, as the Pelicans host the Wizards.
As we get closer to tip-off, be sure to check in to get up-to-date on all the moneylines, point spreads and over/unders for these games. And if you’re ready to put place a wager, visit one of these sportsbooks!
|Match Up||SU Pick|
|Bulls vs Pistons||Bulls|
|Hawks vs Pacers||Pacers|
|Knicks vs Bucks||Bucks|
|Jazz vs Grizzlies||Jazz|
|Wizards vs Pelicans||Pelicans|
|Lakers vs Nuggets||Lakers|
|Warriors vs TrailBlazers||Blazers|
|Magic vs Kings||Kings|
|Cavaliers vs Clippers||Cavaliers|