NBA Preview from The Sports Network
Sunday, December 16th (All times Eastern)
Houston Rockets (11-11) at Toronto Raptors (5-19), 1 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Houston Rockets look to continue their solid play of late when they head to the Air Canada Centre for a Sunday matinee against the Toronto Raptors.
The Rockets are winners of two in a row, both at home. They bested the woeful Washington Wizards on Wednesday, then followed with an emotional victory Friday night over the Boston Celtics.
Houston defeated Boston, 101-89, but it was a big night for Rockets coach Kevin McHale. He was a Celtics legend, but on Friday it was his role as former general manager of the Minnesota Timberwolves that provided a heartfelt moment.
After the Rockets polished off the Celtics, Boston coach Doc Rivers came down to speak with McHale. Then, it was Kevin Garnett who paid his respects to McHale, who lost his daughter Sasha due to complications from Lupus just a few weeks ago. It was McHale who selected Garnett with the fifth pick in the 1995 draft.
"K.G. and I, we go way back," said McHale. "He's a good guy. There will always be a special place in my heart for Kevin. It was a long day for me today."
James Harden led the way for the Rockets against the Celtics with 21 points, while Greg Smith chipped in 20 off the bench. Starting forward Patrick Patterson injured his right foot and an MRI exam on Saturday revealed a bone bruise. Patterson will not be available on Sunday and rookie forward Terrence Jones is expected to be brought up from the D-League Rio Grande Valley Vipers in time for the game.
The Raptors complete a three-game homestand against the Rockets. They are 1-1 so far with a loss on Wednesday against the Brooklyn Nets and a victory on Friday versus the Dallas Mavericks.
Andrea Bargnani is sidelined with bruised right elbow, and is busy disputing the validity of quotes attributed to him by Italian press saying the Raptors were the "worst team in the NBA." Kyle Lowry is down with a strained right triceps, but the Raptors not only ended a six-game losing streak Friday, they crushed the Mavs, 95-74.
Linas Kleiza went 5-for-11 from the 3-point line en route to a team-high 20 points. Terrance Ross netted 18 off the bench and DeMar DeRozan and Jose Calderon each had 14 points.
"We're here to win, to lose, it got old," Kleiza said. "We've got to put more effort into it. To get back to fundamentals, our defense was great last year. We've kind of got to go back to that. Our defense was one of the best in the NBA and we've got to go back to it."
The Raptors have not surrendered 100 points in their last three, which is definitely improvement. Toronto allowed 100-plus in the previous four.
The Raptors have only won twice since Nov. 20.
The Rockets, losers of six in a row on the road, beat the Raptors by 16 on Nov. 27 in Houston. The Rockets haven't won in Toronto since March 16, 2007, losing five straight north of the border since.
12/16 10:31:29 ET