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Feb 8, 2024 6:49 pm

Rockets, minus Fred VanVleet, visit new-look Raptors

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Injury will prevent the Houston Rockets’ Fred VanVleet from playing Friday night when his current team visits his former team, the Toronto Raptors.

It would have been his first game in Toronto since he left the Raptors last offseason to sign as a free agent with the Rockets.

Instead, he will be limited to being a spectator because of a strained left adductor for the game against the Raptors, who begin a stretch of five straight home games after a 2-4 road trip.

Rockets coach Ime Udoka said before his team’s 132-129 road loss to the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday that VanVleet would miss at least four games.

VanVleet, who was an All-Star and won an NBA championship during his seven seasons with the Raptors, did play against his former team Feb. 2 in Houston. VanVleet had 10 points and six assists in Houston’s 135-106 victory over the Raptors.

“Probably around the All-Star break,” Udoka said of VanVleet’s possible return. “Right around that time frame, but definitely look forward to having him back right after All-Star break.”

The Rockets resume play after the break on the road Feb. 22 against the New Orleans Pelicans.

VanVleet has averaged 16.5 points and 8.2 assists while committing just 1.6 turnovers per game.

Jalen Green scored 30 points in the Rockets’ second straight loss Tuesday. Dillon Brooks added 23 points for Houston. Amen Thompson moved into a starting role in VanVleet’s absence and contributed 13 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and three blocked shots.

“We defended well for two quarters, second and fourth,” Udoka said. “We didn’t feel like we had to take any contested shots tonight, just continuing to penetrate and kick, make easy reads. We didn’t really duplicate it as well in the second half.”

The Raptors also have been struggling. They have lost eight of 10 despite a 123-117 victory over the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday.

The Raptors overcame a 15-point deficit against the Hornets.

RJ Barrett, who missed the previous game because of knee-injury management, had 23 points, six rebounds and five assists.

The game turned in the early part of the third quarter when Raptors coach Darko Rajakovic called a timeout and delivered a stern message to the players.

Toronto was down 10 at the time and then fell behind by 15 when Miles Bridges hit one of his six 3-pointers on the way to 45 points. The Raptors started their comeback.

“I was not happy with the intensity. I was not happy with our communication. Just the urgency was not there,” Rajakovic said. “In order to win on the road, we needed to be better. I just expressed my feelings, in a soft, Serbian way.”

The Raptors held the Hornets to 28 percent shooting in the fourth quarter. Barrett scored eight points in the final quarter and Jakob Poeltl had a tip-in and a blocked shot in the final 82 seconds to put the Raptors up five. Poeltl finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds.

The Raptors, who have traded OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam this season, made trades with the Utah Jazz and the Brooklyn Nets at Thursday’s deadline.

The Raptors obtained Kelly Olynyk, Ochai Agbaji from Utah for Kira Lewis, Otto Porter and a 2024 first-round draft choice.

Toronto also traded Dennis Schroder and Thaddeus Young to Brooklyn for Spencer Dinwiddie, who they waived.

– Field Level Media

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