Okla. City Thunder (41-25, 19-14 road) at Toronto Raptors (33-33, 23-10 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 106.9 (16th), Raptors – 111.1 (5th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 103.4 (6th), Raptors – 113.1 (30th)
Pace: Thunder – 92.9 (14th), Raptors – 93.2 (11th)
View from the enemy: Raptors Republic
What’s separated this Thunder team most from last year’s, other than the actual success and all, is the fact that the team can refocus and not let one bad game carry over to another. Then another. Then another. And that’s what hopefully happens tonight. Everything that happened Wednesday gets washed away because Oklahoma City comes out ready in Toronto tonight.
That’s what we’ve come to expect. But March road trips can be dangerous, especially when you’re playing a team like the Raptors in their place where they need a win. Not to say OKC doesn’t, but the Raps are slipping out of the East’s top eight and have to take advantage of every home game. So this one won’t be easy at all.
Toronto coming in: The Raps are surely riding high after a huge home win against Atlanta Wednesday. Before that, Toronto had lost nine of 10 and five straight. They’re good at home (23-10) and are sitting eighth in the East right now. So maybe they’re turning things back around.
Last time Chris Bosh sat out and it resulted in the Thunder basically steamrolling Toronto. Things are a little different with Bosh. Toronto now has an inside advantage over OKC with Bosh and he also provides the bulk of the Raps’ scoring. So don’t think this game will go like last time. I really like Serge Ibaka matching up with him for a few stretches because Ibaka can match his size and athleticism and also isn’t afraid to play rough.
Jose Calderon can shoot and is a solid passer, but he has no chance of keeping Russell Westbrook in front of him. Calderon can score a little, Hedo Turkoglu can put up points, DeMar DeRozan is coming along and Andrea Bargnani is maybe their most consistent threat. It will be key for OKC to not let the entire unit get rolling. Limit it to Bosh and one or two guys. Don’t let everyone build confidence. If Toronto starts scoring from all five positions, they’re tough. Really tough.
I love Kevin Durant against Turkoglu because there’s just no way Hedo can hang with Durant. Nenad Krstic isn’t a bad defender and with Bargnani preferring the jumpshot, that probably plays into OKC’s favor. But again, witho ut James Harden, someone needs to provide some supplementary scoring. Nick Collison has done a solid job of that lately, but some points from Kyle Weaver would be nice.
OKC matches up pretty well with the Raptors though, mainly because they play no defense. They’re an offensively focused team and if the Thunder gets back to their defensive principles tonight, this should be a win. In games the Thunder doesn’t struggle to score, they typically fare well. Common sense says the Thunder comes out incredibly focused for this one. This game is extremely important. They need to be locked in from the beginning, fix the defensive issues and play a great game. That’s what one would think should happen. But will it happen? Watch the game I suppose.
Tip at 6:00 CDT. Go Okay City.
UPDATE: Courtesy the good people at Hoops Addict, here’s Scott Brooks talking about the Thunder defense against the Toronto offense.