The Houston Rockets are in Tampa Bay on Friday night for a meeting with the Toronto Raptors at Amalie Arena. This is the temporary home of the Raptors, as they patiently wait for the US-Canada border to open up. At least for this season, the Raptors are playing in Tampa at Amalie Arena, the home of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
That could extend into next season if the Covid situation doesn’t stabilize down to very manageable levels consistently. I’m afraid the virus is never going away, so it’s going to be one of those things where hopefully the vaccines quash the daily new cases to small numbers. That’s what it will take for the border to re-open.
While it must be nice to escape the winter weather in Toronto, it must not really feel like home playing in Tampa. This is especially true for the guys that have been members of the Raptors for at least a few years. For snowbirds from Canada that spent the winter in Tampa, it had to feel nice to have an opportunity to see the team play in-person, though. The Raptors haven’t been completely fan-less in Tampa.
Bobby Wester and Masai Ujiri have big questions to ask at the trade deadline. Are they going to deal Kyle Lowry? Rumors are heating up that the Philadelphia 76ers would love to bring the hometown boy back to the city where he grew up and played college ball. The Raptors are unlikely to give him up for free, though, and if they know how badly the Sixers want him, they’ll draw this process out for the best possible return.
Lowry still has something left in the tank, and if the Raptors don’t believe they’re going to have success in the playoffs, it would be worth getting what they can for him. He’s an underrated point guard that would certainly give the 76ers a nice lift, or anywhere else that needs a starting guard for that matter. His Raptors are fifth in the NBA with a record of 16-17.
They’re coming off a 116-108 loss on Wednesday against the Miami Heat. After beating the 76ers on Sunday, 110-103, the Raptors have been losers in two straight against the 76ers in a rematch, 109-102, and the loss versus the Heat in Miami. They’ve been incredibly inconsistent and turn it on and off. I’m looking at you Pascal Siakam. The Raptors take on a Rockets team tonight that is in freefall with nine straight losses.
James Harden got his wish and received a ticket out of Houston. The way he handled it might have been questionable, but Harden saw the writing on the wall and knew he was winning nothing with the Rockets. They head into Tampa with a record of 11-19 and are only up on the Minnesota Timberwolves in the West. Head below for our free Rockets vs. Raptors pick on February 26, 2021.
Houston Rockets vs. Toronto Raptors NBA Betting Odds:
Rockets vs. Raptors Prediction:
The Houston Rockets haven’t been interested in putting much effort into their craft recently. They haven’t won a game since February 4 against the Memphis Grizzlies. The Rockets have seemingly been going through the motions without putting in much work. Who thought that adding Victor Oladipo to this mess was going to provide a quick fix? The Rockets may have Oladipo and John Wall in their lineup, but this roster hasn’t meshed together properly.
They are shooting just 44.4% from the field for 27th in the league. It doesn’t help that the Rockets are hitting at the free-throw line at a clip of only 75%, as opposed to 82.7% for third for the Raptors. Houston has scored an average of 108.6 points per game for 23rd in the league. Even Harden going at 50% was better than what the Rockets are getting from their offense at the moment. In their last five outings, the Rockets have netted 105.4 points per game while getting smacked for 120.4 points against per game.
That equates to a wide loss margin of 15 points. In their most recent showing, the Rockets were chased off the floor by a very beatable Cleveland Cavaliers team by a score of 112-96. Brutal stuff from the Rockets, who are going to see a tougher challenge tonight against the Raptors in Tampa. I have much more faith in the Raptors turning things around after two losses than I do the Rockets waking up from their coma.
Nick Nurse’s emphasis on defense should give the Rockets plenty of problems tonight. This isn’t the Kawhi Raptors’ defense, but nevertheless still a talented squad defensively. The Raptors are eighth in the league with 110.4 points against per game, while limiting opponents to 45.3% for seventh. The inconsistent play of Siakam has held the offense back this season. He has earned his pay in some games, but spins out of control in other spots.
When I say Siakam spins out of control, I mean it literally. If you’ve watched the Raptors play this season, you are well aware of what I mean. Toronto is 16th in the NBA with 112.6 points netted per contest. They’ve been successful from three and the charity stripe, though. The Raptors are sixth in the league from three and third at free throws. A struggling Houston defense that has allowed an average of 120.4 points in their previous five showings should make the Raptors look great. I’m on the Raptors in a game they should win by at least ten.