Fast starts have helped the Houston Rockets continue their dominance at home. The way the Toronto Raptors have been beginning in games on the road, Houston's first-period success may continue.
The Rockets look to extend a nine-game home winning streak and avoid being swept in their season series with the lowly Raptors on Tuesday night.
Houston (38-22) has been outstanding at the Toyota Center this season, giving it a good chance to avenge a 94-73 loss at Toronto (23-38) on Jan. 2. The Rockets have outscored opponents by an average of 14.5 points during the nine-game winning streak at home, where they are 24-6 on the season.
Houston has jumped out to quick leads in its last three games at the Toyota Center, holding an average advantage of 8.3 points after the first period.
The Raptors, meanwhile, have lost their three road games since the All-Star break, allowing an average of 32.3 points in the first 12 minutes.
This will be Toronto's last road game against a Western Conference team this season. The Raptors have gone 3-11 in such contests and have the East's worst overall record against teams in the West, going 9-17.
Toronto will now face a Houston club that has won seven of its last eight. In the Rockets' only defeat during that stretch, they blew a 17-point lead in the final six minutes of a 105-102 loss to Chicago on Saturday night.
Houston recovered from that matchup to beat Minnesota 105-94 on Sunday. The Rockets had six players in double figures.
"We're not going to be the flashiest team, but we should be a workmanlike team and a very solid team night in and night out," Rockets forward Shane Battier told the team's official website.
Ron Artest had a team-high 23 points following a 32-point effort versus the Bulls. At six feet seven inches and 260 pounds, Artest moved to shooting after Tracy McGrady elected to have microfracture knee surgery to end his season nearly two weeks ago.
Artest is averaging 21.4 points and shooting 51 per cent from 3-point range in his last eight games. He was held to 12 points on 4-for-11 shooting in this season's first matchup with Toronto.
Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani each had 19 points for the Raptors in that contest. They combined for 46 points in Toronto's 109-98 loss to Dallas on Sunday night.
"Sometimes we get down eight or 10 points and hang our heads," said Bosh, averaging a team-high 22.4 points and 9.4 rebounds. "This is the NBA. A 10-point lead can disappear in a matter of minutes. We have to keep that in mind."
The Raptors were out-rebounded 57-45, and coach Jay Triano said his team missed Shawn Marion's post presence. The veteran forward left in the first quarter with flu-like symptoms and did not return, but he isn't expected to miss Tuesday's game.
Marion averaged 15.4 points and 10.4 rebounds in his first five games since being acquired from Miami on Feb. 13. Toronto is 2-4 since that trade.
Houston is just 14-12 against teams from the East.