Rockets-Raptors Preview

The Houston Rockets are doing an excellent job of beating losing

teams. They’ll get a chance to face another one Sunday when they

visit the Toronto Raptors.

Houston (13-9) improved to 7-1 against teams below .500 with a

96-91 victory over Philadelphia on Friday night in the opener of

this two-game trip. The Rockets used a 46-6 edge in bench points to

win after a poor beginning by the starters contributed to Houston’s

10-point deficit following the first quarter.

Carl Landry scored a team-high 20 points and rookie Chase

Budinger bounced back from a scoreless effort two nights earlier

against Cleveland with 15 to lead the effort by the reserves.

“We’ve been doing that all year,” coach Rick Adelman said. “We

have somebody step up all the time and that’s why we’ve been able

to win a lot of games – our guys respond. I don’t think anybody

thinks of himself as a star, we’re all just playing together and

that’s why the bench is crucial for us and it certainly was

tonight.”

Budinger has emerged as a key reserve and leads all 2009

second-round draft picks with an 8.9 scoring average. He’s

averaging 14.3 points in his last four road games.

“I just think it just shows he’s going to be a solid player

because he really struggled against Cleveland but he came right in

tonight and twice, in the second quarter he did it and then made

two or three big shots in the fourth quarter when we needed

baskets,” Adelman said. “That’s what he’s been: he’s been a guy who

responds and it’s kind of typical of our team.”

Houston and Toronto (10-15) have split their two-game season

series the last two seasons. Raptors leading scorers Chris Bosh and

Andrea Bargnani each averaged 22.0 points and shot a combined 54.5

percent from the field in the two contests in 2008-09.

Bosh recorded his league-high 21st double-double Friday but had

a poor game with 14 points and 10 rebounds in a 111-89 home loss to

Atlanta. He averaged 25.6 points in his previous four games.

“We can circle dates on our calendar all we want to, but until

we become a better team and, individually, take the challenge a

little bit better, we’re going to stay where we are,” Bosh

said.

The Raptors are allowing an Eastern Conference-worst 108.8

points per game, and have given up an average of 114.0 in

consecutive losses.

“It’s really frustrating,” Toronto rookie DeMar DeRozan said.

“We’ve got to pick ourselves back up and move on to the next

one.”

Raptors guard Jose Calderon, who missed the past two games with

a sore left hip, came off the bench against the Hawks and lasted

just seven minutes before aggravating the injury. Jarrett Jack

started in his place.

Toronto coach Jay Triano said Calderon had gone for further

tests and did not know whether the guard would be available

Sunday.

The Raptors are 3-7 against teams from the West.