Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard will return to action as Toronto hosts the Houston Rockets (8 p.m. EST, TNT).
While not officially listed on the injury report for the night, Leonard has frequently been rested and missed last game against the Detroit Pistons. He has missed over a quarter of Toronto’s games, as the Raptors have gone 13-5 with him on the bench.
With the 46-18 Raptors standing in second place in the Eastern Conference, and only 2 games back from the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks, the focus is entering the playoff hunt healthy. They have plenty of experience replacing Leonard’s output (27 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game). That point average is the highest of the 7-year forward’s career.
Here’s the roster outlook and lineup with Leonard back in the mix.
Raptors Roster and Lineup vs. Rockets
Head coach Nick Nurse chose to start Danny Green and Jeremy Lin in Sunday’s overtime loss at the Pistons. This shifted the scoring load to guard Kyle Lowry in Leonard’s absence, who racked up 35 points in 42 minutes. Green managed just 6 points on 2-of-6 shooting, which included a pair of triples.
Green is strictly a 3-and-D type, with the emphasis on the 3. He scores 9.8 points per game and cans triples at a 43.4 percent rate. He adds 4 rebounds a game, with 3.4 of them coming off the defensive glass.
These numbers indicate he’s more of a role player, rather than someone ready for starter minutes. As Michael Grange of Sports Net wrote back on Jan. 2, he’s successful on several rotations.
But in the Raptors’ up-tempo offence with the ball flying inside and out, Green is at his best again. He’s shooting 41.2 per cent from deep — fourth in the league for shooters with at least 200 attempts — and according to basketball-reference.com is a part of all eight of the Raptors’ most successful five-man lineup configurations; six of their seven best four-man configurations; six of their best three-man combinations and four of their top five two-man groups.
Raptors Outlook Tonight vs. Rockets
Team Rankings give Toronto a 66.8 percent chance of beating the Rockets tonight. This will be a rematch of the game in Houston on Jan. 25, which the Raptors dropped 121-119. Leonard amassed 32 points, 7 boards and 5 dimes in the losing effort.
The Rockets will be missing some production from that win, as forward Kenneth Faried (hip) tallied a double-double with 21 points and 14 rebounds. They also will be missing guard Iman Shumpert (calf).
Without Faried, Raptors center Serge Ibaka needs to put together a solid night. He averages 15.4 points a contest, but hasn’t eclipsed 20 points since a 12-point victory over Philadelphia on Feb. 5.