This back to back is the “return to Toronto on a eight game win streak” challenge.
The Raptors (29-23, 6th in East) and Thunder (17-36, 14th in West) face off for the second and final time this season. The first matchup on December 8th was a memorable, near-euphoric but ultimately frustrating loss. This was also the last game I watched in person. Remember the short stint this season where Scotiabank Arena was at full capacity?
The crowd was corporate and I’m being nice. Eight of us loudly chanted “come home Shai!” on his free throws and to my utter disappointment, others just stared instead of joining in. Boo! Nearly everyone returned back to classic Raptor-like levels in the last five minutes and it was beautiful, as Toronto arose from a puzzling 14 point hole that they dug midway through the fourth. The courtside row was a little different. Only Herbie Kuhn’s pleading made them stand up for the final possession below, which was quite embarrassing. Justin Champagnie, you ALMOST had it!
That was a completely different Raptor team, dropping to 11-14 that night and still in the midst of finding themselves. OG Anunoby, Precious Achiuwa and Khem Birch were out. Svi Mykhailiuk still had rope from Nick Nurse at the time. Pascal Siakam had a great offensive game (23 points, 11 rebounds, five assists) but was working through inconsistency coming back from shoulder surgery.
Toronto is 18-9 since. The starting line-up is on fire and roles have been defined, although bench pieces are still obviously needed (this is the last game before the trade deadline). With Brooklyn sailing into the abyss without Kevin Durant and the Celtics nipping at the Raptors heels to escape the play-in, these games against Oklahoma City and Houston the next two nights are must haves. The Thunder and Rockets are the West’s two worst teams. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who had 26 points and nine assists in the December meeting, is out until after the all-star break with a right ankle sprain.
The Raptors are riding a six game win streak for the second time this season. It’s a golden opportunity to visit seventh heaven for the first time since…August 5th 2020? Oh right the bubble. A seven game win streak that lasted over five months because of the Covid break. Doesn’t get any more bizarre than that.
Player to Watch
Easiest one I’ve done. How could it be anybody but Montreal’s very own, Luguentz Dort? The Canadian has been the Thunder’s leading scorer in five of their last six games. The one Lu didn’t? That was because he was out after being hit in the face a couple times the previous game in Portland. Dort returned against the Warriors on Monday wearing a mask. Check out how he ended this wild possession.
Lu Dort dunked on Steph after FIVE rebounds. 🤯🤯 pic.twitter.com/oGxyBrnUHo
— House of Highlights (@HoHighlights) February 8, 2022
Lu Dort on the mask: “It was a little weird at first. My face just gets so hot when I play. But I fractured my nose so I have to wear it.”
Lu guesses he’ll wear the mask a couple more games. pic.twitter.com/imAMXI9d4d
— Brandon Rahbar (@BrandonRahbar) February 8, 2022
Through five games since Shai’s absence, Dort is averaging 24.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.8 spg on .482/.383/.828 shooting splits. He was already a high volume three point shooter (7.6 attempts a game), and is firing over nine per contest during this stretch. With those percentages, why not?
Tip-Off: 8pm EST | TV: Sportsnet | Radio: TSN 1050
Toronto Raptors Results, Lineups & Injuries
Oklahoma City Thunder Results, Lineups & Injuries
My over/under prediction (10-10 this season): Down bad over here wow, at .500 now! OKC has been held under 100 points in six of its last 10 games. That hasn’t happened to the Raptors once in their last 10. What the hell do you do here? I say the Raptors score well over 100 but the Thunder don’t. 115-98 would be my guess. I’ve been so terrible at guessing the over/under, so why not add a score prediction to it? That means over by the way.