The first of two meetings with one of the teams I have been looking forward to watching all year. The Thunder are an exciting young lot, that can’t be called ‘up-and-coming’ anymore. They are here, 6th in the West, and have been running folks ragged with all that young talent. The most talented of the lot… Sam Presti. It blows me away that the GM of a professional team is the same age as me (33). Could you imagine if Babcock got as much talent back for Vince Carter as Presti got for Ray Allen? How far ahead would the Raptors be right now?
The Raptors are fresh off a tough loss to the Cavs that came down to a game winning shot for Turkoglu, and again, he jacked a shot instead of trying to drive to the rack…obviously he missed, but that’s neither here nor there. I’m hoping the “clutch” switch turns on automatically when the playoffs start since I can’t recall him hitting a game winner yet this season.
I’m done with Turkoglu; I’m done trying to figure out why he keeps shooting the ball with the game on the line instead of driving to the basket. I don’t get it. I really don’t. Someone please try explain this to me without bringing up the 3 or 4 game-winners he hit last season. This is a whole new season, and he’s had two good games. Bargnani should have got the ball at the end there, the guy has ice in his veins too, why not see what he can do for us?
Oklahoma is 8-2 over their last 10, with their most recent win a 17 point whooping of Minnesota that saw Russell Westbrook put up a masterful 18pts 15ast in only 33 minutes of action. The Thunder are 17-11 at home, and 17-6 against the East so far this season including two big wins over the Hawks. This is not going to be an easy day, not by a long shot.
Bosh didn’t accompany the team to Oklahoma, and I feel like a broken record asking this; but why? Why wouldn’t you travel with your teammates, provide leadership and support when the team is without your services? I’m not saying he doesn’t support his team, just that there is only so much you can do sitting in your Lakeshore condo watching your boys play on TV. I’m mostly lashing out because the Raptors are only a game ahead of Chicago for 5th, and things are just going to get tougher over the next 12 (8 of which are on the road, and 6 of those in the West).
Stopping the ball is the name of the game tonight. The Thunder live in the paint by either planting themselves in the post or, for the most part, penetrating the crap out of the ball. Durant and Westbrook are relentless in attacking the rim, and need to be stopped on the perimeter. Let them shoot the ball all they want, but please don’t let them in the paint, especially with Bargnani the only one available to challenge shots.
If Amir can keep himself under control, he will have value tonight as he is can run up and down the floor with the likes of Green and Collison, as well as blocking some shots. Evans, while furious for a few minutes, doesn’t play defensive on the block well enough for my likings, and will run into trouble keeping up with the youngsters.
Jarrett Jack has been playing out of this world since Bosh has gone down. While he has struggled at times, the man has really stepped up and taken this team by the reigns averaging 20.8pts 3.5rebs 7.3ast. In all fairness, Turkoglu has answered the call, but his 18pts 5rebs 4ast are what we were expecting from him every game, and not just his production when he’s stepping up to help compensate for missing Chris.
Triano will have to field a team that will protect the paint (the Thunder are tied for 4th in offensive rebounding rate) as well as keeping Jack and Calderon from being on the court at the same time. I just don’t like their chances against Westbrook and Sefolosha (who they stole from the Bulls…raped em…dammit). Also, if the game comes down to one shot at the end, give it to Bargnani; he won’t disappoint. I believe.
The Thunder are 8.5 point favourites at home, FYI.