The Raptors travelled to Houston to play the Rockets, who have been looking particularly dangerous as of late, given the month that reigning league MVP James Harden has had.
The Raptors trailed for the entirety of the game, coming back late to eventually lose by two.
Here are my takeaways from that game:
1. Harden is Monstrous, But He Wasn't the Raptor Killer
Harden had himself a game (35 and 7), but we expected that. What was unexpected, and what lost the Raptors the game, was the performance by Austin Rivers and Kenneth Faried.
Rivers has been in a smaller role all year for the Rockets, but against Toronto he played 36 minutes, totalling 13, 6, and 5 in that time.
Faried was even more unexpected. After being benched in both Denver and Brooklyn in the past two seasons, he played 38 minutes and put up a double-double of 21 points and 14 rebounds against the Raptors. He was more key in that game than anyone could have predicted.
2. People Need to Stop Making Jokes about Harden's Defence
James Harden has been mocked for his laziness and overall lack of desire to play defence in prior seasons, and it was completely understandable. I mean, he didn't really play defence, so people have the right to mock him.
This season, and to some degree last season have been different stories. Where he was once a huge minus on the defensive end, Harden played solid defence all night against the Raptors.
The biggest play of the night saw Harden guarding the significantly taller Kawhi Leonard, with the Raptors down two with time running out. He forced a deep, fading three-pointer from Kawhi that air-balled to seal the game.
3. Nick Nurse's Rotations Were Off
A big part of the Raptors' struggles came from Nick Nurse's refusal to adapt to the game through the use of different rotations.
Fred VanVleet struggled mightily, scoring 8 points on 3-of-9 shooting in 21 minutes. Despite that, Nurse did not play Delon Wright. VanVleet struggled to guard Austin Rivers, a 6'4" point guard, but Wright, at 6'5" to Freddy's 5'11" would definitely have been a better matchup for Rivers defensively.
Monroe (7 minutes), McCaw (1 minute), Anunoby (11 minutes), and Miles (8 minutes) all could have been put to better use as well.
One game is nothing to worry about, but Raptors fans aren't happy with Nurse right now.
A win against the Mavericks in Dallas on Sunday would go a long way to appease the fan base.