Pre-Game

Gameday: Thunder @ Raptors, Mar. 22

The Toronto Raptors home and home with the Oklahoma City Thunder enters it’s second leg. A wild game out west that featured Pascal Siakam’s stardom, a Russell Westbrook 5-10 shooting night from three, and Paul George fouling out transitions into it’s conclusion. The now defunct 3rd seed Thunder have rebranded as the 8th seed out West, much to the chagrin of the team’s followers. The Raptors are looking to prolong the Thunder’s tough stretch by closing out the back-to-back with a 2-0 record.

All eyes will return to the tandem of Siakam and Fred VanVleet to buoy an offense that will be without Kyle Lowry for the second straight game. Siakam and VanVleet have been superb of late, both in completely different ways, but driving a large part of the Raptors success all the while. There’s always the chance that Kawhi Leonard acquires another case of load management, and that would only increase the burden on the aforementioned players.

Paul George’s foul trouble was a massive takeaway in the last game. The Thunder were without George in overtime, but Danny Green’s sterling work as George’s primary defender should be the talking point. Green held George to 10 points on 4-9 shooting, with 3 turnovers in the first three quarters. Lining up opposite of one of the league’s very best offensive juggernauts and blanketing them with that much success is rare, but Green has made a habit of it this year.

As always, if Siakam is going to be driving a lot of the offense, be it in the half-court or in transition, Green will be paramount to the success that comes from those possessions. Of all the players on the Raptors roster, Green and Siakam have logged the most minutes together and it’s due to the hand in glove fit that they provide for each other. Green’s tireless job of running up the floor on offense has made the already heady passer Siakam, into one of the NBA’s most terrifying transition threats. There’s no good decision when you’re looking at a streaking Siakam with ball in hand, and Green flying down the wing. That scenario generally ends up with a bucket, no matter how you slice it. When these two play together, the Raptors pass better, shoot better, defend better, and even clean the defensive glass better. When you look at it this way, it’s no wonder the Thunder opted to use George as Siakam’s primary defender on Wednesday night.

Expect Marc Gasol to start in this one. He’s got the body to bruise with Steven Adams, and Serge Ibaka is rangy enough to play a more aggressive type of defense against the Thunder bench that lacks shooting. Keep your eye out for Ibaka to step out to ball-handlers in favour of dropping down. This should help the Raptors push the Thunder’s sets a bit farther out and introduce a good deal of chaos to their offense. As for Gasol, a similar output on offense would be a welcome in this one. Last time out he played the role of conduit on offense, connecting broken plays, and completing clinical ones. His new found chemistry with VanVleet on the roll adds an element of viability to a couple new lineups. Of course, keep your fingers crossed for his shot to come around.

Leonard is a big what if, but if it happens to be that he plays watch closely to which bench players he gets tied to, if at all. Nurse is still searching for the perfect supplement to the Lin-Powell minutes. This experimenting, if you could call it that, will likely go on over the rest of the season, or at least until one of the bench guards outside of VanVleet provides a shred of competence when running the offense.

All things considered, cross your fingers for another monster defensive game from Green. We’ve all been witness to how destructive a great George game can be. I’m excited to see all the different and strange passes Westbrook will make out of the pick n’ roll. Round 2 should be fun.

Cold-ish Take

Double-digit scoring for Ibaka in this one while maintaining the same level of glass cleaning at the defensive end. Looking for a very strong game from him, especially if Leonard sits.

Game Info

TV: SportsNet One | Radio: TheFan590 | Tipoff: 7:35pm EST

Raptors Updates

Kyle Lowry (ankle) is ruled out.

PG: Fred VanVleet, Jeremy Lin

SG: Danny Green, Norman Powell

SF: Kawhi Leonard, OG Anunoby, Patrick McCaw

PF: Pascal Siakam

C: Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka

Thunder Updates

Andre Roberson (knee) is sidelined.

PG: Russell Westbrook, Dennis Schroder, Raymond Felton

SG: Terrance Ferguson, Hamidou Diallo

SF: Paul George, Abdel Nader, Deonte Burton

PF: Jerami Grant, Markieff Morris, Patrick Patterson

C: Steven Adams, Nerlens Noel

I’ll be at this game, look for a small child of 13 on your feed and you might see me.

Have a blessed day.

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