James Harden is on a historic tear. Who would you pick as the best player to slow him down? Most people will answer Kawhi Leonard. Much to our good fortune, we get to watch this matchup on Friday. “The Klaw” versus “The Beard”, who comes out on top?
Injuries / Suspensions
The Toronto Raptors are getting some serious firepower back on Friday. Forwards Kawhi Leonard and OG Anunoby are both returning from minor absences. Their returns will help a lot on the defensive end against Harden.
The Houston Rockets may finally get point guard Chris Paul back from a groin injury that has kept him out most of the season. However, it appears he is more likely to return Sunday against the Orlando Magic.
Center Clint Capela is expected back in late February. The Rockets should have Nene Hilario and newly signed Kenneth Faried to fill the minutes. They could also have point guard Brandon Knight back soon as well.
This number is expected to open at Raptors -3, but we won’t have an official number till every star’s injury designation is determined. The total should be somewhere in the high 220’s.
Just like most Friday night showdowns, neither team has an upcoming opponent they will be looking ahead to. The Raptors do play the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday, but this game is a Friday night showdown between Finals hopefuls.
The Rockets are playing their fourth game in seven days and first of a three game home stand. The Raptors are also playing their fourth game in seven days. Both teams should be well rested and there is not a situational advantage for either team.
This will be a slower paced game. In fact, the Rockets are playing the fourth slowest pace in the league. With limited shot creators, they have to slow the game down and allow Harden’s impact and control to be increased.
Despite the slow paces, a side for the total is a little hard to pinpoint. The Raptors are playing some pretty strong defense this season with a rating of 107.1. The Rockets, on the other hand, are league average, 112.1.
The offenses can get points quickly. The Raptors have a rating of 112.1 and the Rockets are 113.6.
So, we have two high rated offenses, but two slow paces. See why the total is a tricky play?
A key statistical difference in this game is the scoring in the paint. Getting easy buckets creates a floor for a team’s points. Three point shooting can fluctuate from night to night.
The Raptors are currently scoring 50.3 points in the paint per game and only giving up 47.6. The Rockets are only scoring 42.1 and giving up 53.3. So, the Raptors should be able to penetrate for some high percentage shots.
Houston is not playing fantastic basketball lately. They are 3-3 over the last six and have not covered in their last five games. Even if they get Chris Paul back, how healthy is he, and how effective will he be?
I also think Houston may have similar issues as when they lost to Milwaukee at home. The Bucks were able to affect the Rockets shooters with a lengthy defense.
The Raptors also have a lot of length on their team. OG Anunoby, Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, and Pascal Siakam all are great defenders. I will be on the Raptors -3 in this game. I also will have a wager on the Raptors alt line in this game.
For the total, it seems a bit high if it does open at 230. Both teams can score, but their paces are slow. The Rockets may have trouble getting to their team total if the Raptors are able to dig in on defense. The Rockets team total under is a play for me.
For player props, I am going to go bold and take James Harden’s points under. He has been receiving totals as high as 41. This is a matchup where he may finally struggle to get his buckets. I know, I am insane.
Raptors alt spread
Rockets team total under
James Harden points under