The league’s lowest-scoring team faces the NBA’s best defensive squad when the Raptors, coming off an ugly road trip, host the upstart Rockets.
Toronto easily has the worst scoring average in the league with 75.2 points per game. That includes a pathetic 67.8 average on the road, a big reason why the Raptors have gone 0-5 outside of Canada.
In closing a three-game road trip Friday, Toronto was held to 34 percent from the field and had just 10 assists in a 94-64 loss at Sacramento.
“It’s over and done with,” said Vince Carter, who shot 5-of-21 for 13 points. “A game like that doesn’t make sense even to look at. You try to bounce back and get that bad taste out of your mouth. We didn’t play any kind of organized basketball, in my opinion.”
That dismal offensive effort was not even close to the worst of the season for the Raptors, who scored 56 points against Minnesota on Nov. 1 and 60 at Washington six days later.
Toronto has averaged 84.5 points in winning all four of its home games, but now faces a Houston team surrendering a league-low 80.4 points per contest.
“You have to come out here every night and play hard regardless of who you’re playing,” Rockets forward Kelvin Cato said. “It doesn’t make a difference what their record is. This is the league. Everybody out here can play and can compete.”
Cato’s defense on Friday helped Houston beat the Phoenix Suns 90-85. The seven-year veteran is the forgotten big man on a Rockets team that includes second-year sensation Yao Ming, but Cato keyed the win with six points, 10 rebounds, four blocks and four steals.
“He adds toughness and rebounding and protecting the paint and big defensive stops to us,” coach Jeff Van Gundy said. “Yao obviously has a long way to go with his aggressiveness, but Kelvin is helping him a lot.”
Yao had 21 points and 14 boards Friday while Steve Francis scored 26 points to pace the Rockets, who are in first place in the Midwest Division this late in a season for the first time since Dec. 21, 1997.
STANDINGS (through Nov. 14): Rockets - 1st place (tied), Midwest Division. Raptors - 5th place, 3 GB, Central Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Rockets - Francis, 19.8 ppg and 5.0 apg; Yao, 9.0 rpg. Raptors - Carter, 24.4 ppg; Davis, 10.8 rpg; Palacio, 4.8 apg.
2002-03 SEASON SERIES: Rockets, 2-0.
LAST MEETING: March 5; Rockets, 97-95. At Toronto, Yao scored 13 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter and grabbed nine rebounds.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Rockets - 2-1 on the road; Raptors - 4-0 at home.