After splitting the four games of their just-completed road trip, the Raptors return to Toronto for a three-game homestand and seven home dates in their next eight games. Four of those games are against sub-.500 teams so it’s safe to say that they should be able to win at least five of these games for there to be any reason to take this team seriously.
The Houston Rockets probably thought they would be taken seriously this season but injuries to Yao Ming and Aaron Brooks plus uncharacteristically lousy defence (they’re 23rd in the league with 109.3 points allowed per 100 possessions) have combined to give them a 3-8 record and they appear to be a write-off in the West already. They have a couple of guys putting up big numbers in Luis Scola (22.9 PPG, 10 RPG) and Kevin Martin (23.1 PPG) but their third-best healthy player is… I don’t know… Shane Battier? Brad Miller? Rockets GM Daryl Morey isn’t looking like so much of a wonderboy these days.
Leandro Barbosa is expected to return to the Raptors lineup tonight, which isn’t necessarily good news if it means that he takes playing time and shots away from red-hot Sonny Weems. Funny, but before the season I expected that Weems would become somewhat of an afterthought on this team because of Barbosa’s arrival. I’m more than happy to be wrong about this.
Toronto: If Barbosa is back, then mystery man Ed Davis is the only remaining injured Raptor.
Houston: Chase Budinger is expected to play tonight after missing his last three games with a sprained ankle, so it’s just Yao and Brooks sitting out.
1. Did you know that Sonny Weems currently has the highest field goal percentage in the NBA among guards who take at least 10 field goal attempts per game? (Stat courtesy of T. Jose Caldeford.)
2. Can Andrea Bargnani have another 30-point game against the defensively weak frontcourt of Brad Miller and Luis Scola?
3. Considering the current state of the Rockets, would you swap Bryan Colangelo for Daryl Morey if you could?
4. Do you think Reggie Evans likes playing against Chuck Hayes because he gets to make fun of the Chuckwagon’s free throw shooting?
5. Did you know that Joakim Noah considers Brad Miller to be his best friend in the NBA? “I never knew that I could have a redneck as a best friend. Brad is probably my best friend in the league. Somebody I learned a lot from. And I miss that Duck.”
Start time: 7:00 PM ET
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jarrett Jack, DeMar DeRozan, Sonny Weems, Reggie Evans, Andrea Bargnani
Houston: Kyle Lowry, Kevin Martin, Shane Battier, Luis Scola, Brad Miller
Your pregame song is “Spacious Thoughts” by N.A.S.A. featuring Kool Keith and Tom Waits. Most unlikely hip-hop collab ever? Dunno, but it’s a cool song and a great video.