This is the last real test of the regular season. Toronto was supposed to have their first full lineup since, well, last season. But of course that couldn’t be the case. Toronto will be without Kyle Lowry, which always affects the Raptors’ play. At 42-29, the Oklahoma City Thunder are a talented team with a set identity. They play snarling defence and let their stars in Russell Westbrook and Paul George fill it up on the offensive end. Steven Adams is the best offensive rebounder in the league, and Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka – in his first game back from a suspension for fighting – will have a difficult time protecting the defensive glass. It takes intensity and focus to beat the Thunder, which have been on-again off-again qualities for Toronto.
The Thunder are one of the best teams in the league at stopping transition offence, which is Toronto’s bread and butter. However, Fred VanVleet’s return to health will help Toronto in the half-court especially. He always looks great next to the starters, and his shooting and off-ball movement will be integral components to Toronto scoring the ball.
The Thunder, for their part, are losers of three straight and 10 of their last 15. They’ve hit a little funk as George has returned to earth on the offensive end, and Westbrook’s shooting remains subpar. That doesn’t make them any less dangerous. They have been in the midst of a difficult stretch, and they’re a significantly better team at home than on the road. This will be a good test for Toronto before they close out the rest of the season mostly against the doldrums of the East.
After returning from an ankle injury, Lowry hurt the other one in a freak accident with Mitchell Robinson. The diagnosis is as good as can be, and he should return soon. But he won’t be in this one. Otherwise, a healthy group. Ibaka will come off the bench in his first game back.
PG: Fred VanVleet, Jeremy Lin
SG: Danny Green, Patrick McCaw
SF: Kawhi Leonard, Norman Powell, Malcolm Miller
PF: Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby
C: Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Chris Boucher
Oklahoma City Updates
Nerlens Noel (quad) and Andre Roberson (knee) are out for this one. Russell Westbrook will return from a suspension due to him earning 16 techs in the season. With a thin center rotation, expect to see lots of smallball from the Thunder. Toronto can choose to either match them small, with Siakam or Anunoby as centers, or overpower them with Ibaka’s size from the bench. Keep an eye on rotation quirks like that.
PG: Russell Westbrook, Dennis Schroder, Raymond Felton
SG: Terrance Ferguson, Hamidou Diallo
SF: Paul George, Abdel Nader, Deonte Burton, Scotty Hopson
PF: Jerami Grant, Markieff Morris, Patrick Patterson, Richard Solomon, Donte Grantham
C: Steven Adams
Toronto is +4.5. They’re almost never underdogs, but they’re away and without their engine, Lowry. The over-under is 227.