Unstoppable Force (Rockets) Meets Immovable Object (Raptors at Home)

rockets raptors

Matthew Jordan

Thursday, March 8, 2018 5:00 PM GMT

Thursday, Mar. 8, 2018 5:00 PM GMT

Houston Rockets, you are ridiculous! James Harden & Co. put their 17-game winning streak on the line Friday in a potential NBA Finals preview at Toronto, which is the league’s top home team.

Houston (51-13, 34-29-1 ATS) at Toronto (47-17, 36-28 ATS)Free NBA Pick: RaptorsBest Line Offered: BetOnline

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In this writer’s opinion, the best regular-season matchup left on the entire NBA schedule, which ends April 11, is Friday night from Toronto as the Houston Rockets make their lone visit of the season for a 7:30 p.m. ET tipoff. It’s absolutely stupid this game isn’t nationally televised – instead, NBA TV is showing Wizards-Pelicans at 8 p.m. ET. Come on!

Houston might have the league’s best record and a 17-game winning streak, but the Raptors go for the season sweep. Back on Nov. 14, Toronto was a 6.5-point road dog (total of 218.5) and won 129-113 in Houston. Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan had 27 points, six rebounds and five assists, while his All-Star backcourt mate Kyle Lowry added 19 points, 10 assists and five rebounds. CJ Miles chipped in 19 points in just 17 minutes off the bench. Toronto shot 52.6 percent from the field, was 14-for-30 from long range and scored a season-high 76 first-half points.

It should be noted the Rockets were without Chris Paul, and they clearly aren’t the same without the future Hall of Famer. James Harden had 38 points and made all 19 free throws but was 8-for-25 shooting and 3-for-11 from deep. Eric Gordon had just 12 points and missed all seven 3-pointers. That was Houston’s only defeat in a span of 21 games – that stretched from Nov. 1-Dec. 18.

The underdog is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings.

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Yes, They Could Meet In Finals!

No one seems to give the possibility of a Rockets-Raptors NBA Finals much of a chance even though it’s quite possible, if not likely, they finish as the top seeds in their respective conferences – after all, the Rockets have the NBA’s best point differential (8.9) and the Raptors are No. 2 (8.6 with Golden State). A Toronto-Houston exact Finals matchup is priced at +1450 at 5Dimes. Cavs-Warriors (+150), Raptors-Warriors (+418), Celtics-Warriors (+572) and Cavs-Rockets (+936) all have shorter prices.

This writer is a bit tired of seeing the Cavs and Warriors in the Finals, but I assure you that ABC/ESPN is not as those have been getting boffo TV ratings. From that perspective, Raptors-Rockets would be a disaster. Obviously, the massive Toronto market doesn’t count toward Nielsen TV ratings. Houston is the nation’s fourth-biggest city, but Harden just doesn’t drive the needle like LeBron James, Kevin Durant or Steph Curry do.

The Raptors have the NBA’s best home record at 27-5 (18-14 ATS), only losing at Air Canada Centre to Washington (Nov. 5), Miami (Jan. 9), Golden State (Jan. 13), Utah (Jan. 26) and Milwaukee (Feb. 23). All went down to the wire other than the Wizards matchup. The franchise record for home victories in a season was 30 set in 2006-07, and that’s going down. The Raptors are averaging 112.8 points at home (fourth in the NBA).

While Toronto has a fine starting five led by DeRozan and Lowry, its bench is the NBA’s best. The “Bench Mob” of Miles, Delon Wright, Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl is outscoring opponents by nearly 28 points per 100 possessions. The 30-year-old Miles has been a solid NBA player for a decade, but the other four guys are all 25 or younger.

It would have been easy for both clubs to lose Wednesday in potential look-ahead games. Houston won its 17th in a row, the longest streak in the NBA this season, 110-99 in Milwaukee a night after a 10-point tough win in Oklahoma City. Rather amazingly, the Rockets have led by double digits 38 percent of the time in this winning streak (307 of 816 minutes). They still have just one loss on the year when Harden, Paul and Clint Capela all start.

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What. A. Game. @BMO Game Highlights: https://t.co/78oupbZKBL pic.twitter.com/HMMFf0j579

— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) March 8, 2018

The Raptors became the first team in the league to clinch a playoff berth with their sixth win in a row, 121-119 in OT at Detroit on Wednesday. DeRozan had 42 points (including a bad-ass dunk late in regulation) and the assist on VanVleet’s game-winning jumper with 1.1 seconds left in overtime. Lowry had 15 assists, the first 15-assist game for the team since December 2012.

This writer was wrong on the Rockets not covering Tuesday in OKC. I could take the easy way out here and recommend the total. But this streak has to end at some point, and it’s Houston’s third road game in four nights. The Rockets are also just 4-9 ATS in their past 13 following a double-digit win. Take Toronto for an NBA pick – and if I’m wrong on the Rockets again, I’m completely on their bandwagon the rest of the way.

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