Gameday: Raptors @ Thunder, November 11

Start of a three game road trip. Facing Canadian stars back to back.

The Raptors will take on arguably the two most talked about Canadians this season in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Bennedict Mathurin in back to back games, starting with OKC on Friday.

Raptors scope (7-5 | Offensive rating: 6th | Defensive rating: 7th)

Fred VanVleet couldn’t have slid into the “do everything all-star” role better in Pascal Siakam’s absence. Fred is averaging 29.7 points, 6.3 assists and two steals in three games since missing a few with lower back tightness. He’s made fix, six and seven threes over that span. Both Fred (32) and O.G. Anunoby (27) are coming off season-highs in points against the Rockets on Wednesday. With Precious Achiuwa out, expect Otto Porter Jr, Chris Boucher and Thaddeus Young’s minutes to increase. Otto and Thad have already seen extended run as of late, playing major fourth quarter minutes in place of Christian Koloko and Gary Trent Jr. at times.

Thunder scope (4-7 | Offensive rating: 26th | Defensive rating: 8th)

It’s been an up and down season for OKC so far. The Thunder lost its first three games, then won four in a row to get over .500 at 4-3. Now they are on a four game losing streak, as OKC is widely expected to be near the bottom of the standings for a third straight season.

This is reportedly not sitting well with Shai, who hasn’t seen the playoffs since the 2020 bubble.

That hasn’t affected SGA’s individual performance though. He ranks 5th in scoring with 31.6 ppg and is the betting favourite for Most Improved Player (+260). It’s a little early for all-star talk, but Shai SHOULD be adding that milestone to his career in a few months. It’s not guaranteed because guys like Bradley Beal and Devin Booker have been snubbed in recent years, due to being on teams with losing records. Beal especially didn’t get the nod despite averaging over 30 points in 2019-20 and leading the league in scoring for a big portion of that season!

Gilgeous-Alexander is one of the best drivers and finishers in the league I’m pulling up a recent game vs the Nuggets last week (Nov 3) where he scored in the paint whenever he wanted. The shot chart is hilarious for a guard.

Here is an outlook of the whole season so far.

Onto the Thunder’s most recent game, a loss vs Milwaukee on Wednesday where Gilgeous-Alexander had a season-high 39 points. SGA also has the ability to knock down clutch shots but it seems like every time he hits the go-ahead bucket, something happens the other way for OKC to lose anyway (Bucks won in OT).

Nick Nurse knows Shai very well through coaching the Canadian national team. Wouldn’t be surprised to see DeMar DeRozan-esque trapping, with Christian Koloko lurking in the paint. OKC shoots 30.5 percent from three this season which is second worst in the NBA, only ahead of the Lakers.

OKC also features another Canadian in Luguentz Dort. There will probably be a time in this game where four Canadians share the court at the same time (adding Boucher and Dalano Banton).

Luka Doncic (NBA’s leading scorer this season) gave Dort high praise after a recent game.

Game Info

Tip-Off: 8pm EST | TV: Sportsnet Ontario / One / 4K | Radio: Sportsnet 590

Raptors Lineup

Pascal Siakam (groin) remains out. Khem Birch (knee soreness) will miss a fifth straight game. Precious Achiuwa (right ankle) has ligament tears and is out indefinitely. Justin Champagnie, Jeff Dowtin Jr. and Ron Harper Jr. are with the 905.

PG: Fred VanVleet, Dalano Banton, Malachi Flynn

SG: Gary Trent Jr.

SF: O.G. Anunoby, Otto Porter Jr, Thaddeus Young

PF: Scottie Barnes, Chris Boucher, Juancho Hernangomez

C: Christian Koloko

Thunder Lineup

Number two overall pick Chet Holmgren (right foot) is out the entire season. Darius Bazley (right ankle sprain) is out. Ousmane Dieng, Lindy Waters III and Jaylin Williams are with the Oklahoma City Blue (G-league)

PG: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Tre Mann

SG: Josh Giddey, Aaron Wiggins, Isaiah Joe

SF: Luguentz Dort, Jalen Williams

PF: Alexsej Pokusevski, Kenrich Williams, Eugene Omoruyi

C: Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Mike Muscala

The Line

Toronto is favoured by five points. Over/Under is at 219.5.

Last but definitely not least, lest we forget.

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