Tip-Off: 6 PM CDT
Location: Air Canada Center (Toronto, )
Radio: The Sports Animal
Twitter: Follow @TheThunderGuys for live-tweets during the game
Player to Watch
G DeMar DeRozan is the leading scorer for Toronto averaging 27.2 points while shooting 46.3% from the field and 84.9% from the free throw line. He is also averaging 5.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 1.2 steals. In a 112-102 win over the Thunder in Oklahoma City in November, DeRozan scored a game-high 37 points. Andre Roberson will draw his usual responsibility of guarding the opposing team’s leading scorer, and with Toronto’s starting point guard Kyle Lowry still out with a broken wrist, shutting down DeRozan would be a huge step in putting together a win on the road.
Keys to the Game
- Dominate Inside: In the first matchup between these two teams in November, Toronto managed to outscore Oklahoma City 46-32 in the paint despite the Thunder outrebounding the Raptors 39-35 and outscoring them in 2nd chance points 17-9. 60 games have been played since then, however. The Thunder is the better team when it comes to interior play, but the Raptors are not too bad themselves. Oklahoma City ranks 1st in points in the paint, 2nd in rebounds, and 5th in 2nd chance points, while Toronto is 8th in 2nd chance points, 12th in points in the paint, 22nd in rebounds. Defensively, the Thunder struggles to stop teams down low as they are 29th in points in the paint allowed, while the Raptors are 10th. Controlling the paint will likely be a determining factor in winning tonight’s game.
- Control Tempo: As has been the case all season long, the Thunder loves to get out and run in transition. Oklahoma City ranks 3rd in the league in fast break points per game, while Toronto is only 17th. On the other side of the ball, the Thunder ranks 5th in opponent fast break points, and the Raptors are 7th. When these two teams met at the beginning of the season, Toronto owned the transition game by outscoring Oklahoma City 21-11 in fast break points. With Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry out due to injury, Russell Westbrook should look to take advantage of every fast break opportunity possible.
- Feed Role Players: During the Thunder’s current 3-game win streak, Russell Westbrook has actually decreased his typical scoring output in lieu of getting teammates involved early and often. As a result, Westbrook is averaging just over 15 assists in those three games, and Oklahoma City has had at least 4 other players score in double digits, giving the Thunder more options offensively and making them more difficult to defend. Russ needs to continue to share the ball early and get teammates warmed up to keep the Raptors guessing while on defense.
Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.