It’s not unusual for players and coaches to speak kindly on their opponents before or after a game. Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse dished out some serious praise of the Houston Rockets ahead of their Tuesday night matchup.
Raptors coach Nick Nurse on the Rockets: "This is a championship level team, no doubt about it. On injuries, they’ve have more than their share to key people. This is a team you could see in The Finals, without question.”
— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) March 6, 2019
These two teams have met up once before so far this season, having played each other in late January. The Houston Rockets pulled away with a two-point victory over the Raps, despite a big game from Kawhi Leonard. What was different about this meeting compared to Tuesday night’s is exactly what Nick Nurse mentioned: the Rockets have faced a multitude of injuries.
In their previous matchup, both Chris Paul and Clint Capela were out recovering, leaving Eric Gordon and Kenneth Faried as the second and third top scorers for Houston in that game. With the Rockets having played a total of 63 games this season, only P.J. Tucker has yet to miss a single game. James Harden has sat out four games, while Capela missed 15 and Paul has missed a large chunk of 23 games, coming at different times this season.
The absence of key players hasn’t slowed down Houston much, as they are sitting on the edge of home court advantage in the Western Conference playoff picture and have the second-best offense in the league. They are currently riding a five-game win streak, including a big win against the Golden State Warriors without James Harden.
Nick Nurse didn’t hold back by saying that the Rockets are a team that has a shot to make the finals. Even though Golden State remains the favorite to come out of the west, Houston was a victory away from making an appearance last season. If Nurse is right, there is a chance that tonight’s game could be a preview of NBA Finals.