Preview: Thunder @ Raptors
March 16, 2017
It’s time for a trip up north.
The Oklahoma City Thunder will be in Toronto tonight for a date with Serge Ibaka and his Raptors. This will be OKC’s first look at Ibaka as a member of the #4 team in the East. He’s averaging 14.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game in the 10 games since being traded from the Orlando Magic on Valentine’s Day.
Of course — there are far more to these Raptors than Ibaka. As the team is without Kyle Lowry (wrist), it’s up to DeMar Derozan to carry the burden. The 27-year-old All-Star is in the midst of a stellar season — averaging a career-high 27.2 PPG through 60 games. He should draw Andre Roberson defensively, so it should be tough sledding against the Thunder defense.
The Raptors won the first matchup with OKC this season, dropping the Thunder 112–102 at the ‘Peake on November 9. DeRozan exploded for 37 points on 13/22 shooting — topping a 36-point effort from Russell Westbrook. As Toronto was healthy at that time (Kyle Lowry), things have the potential to look much different this time around.
What to Watch For
The Main Thing
Forcing Mistakes While Limiting Mistakes
The Raptors come into tonight averaging just 12.3 turnovers per game — good for fourth-best in the NBA. They are also tied for third-best in steals per game at 8.4, so they excel at limiting their own mistakes while forcing opposing teams into making plenty.
On the flip side, OKC averages 15 turnovers per game — 23rd in the NBA. The key will be taking care of the basketball and using aggression to force Toronto into uncharacteristic errors. Without Kyle Lowry playing, that will be more likely than last time around. On November 9, the Raptors turned the ball over 11 times, while Oklahoma City coughed it up 19 times.
- This will be the second time OKC faces Ibaka this season. He led the Magic to a 119–117 victory on November 13 with 31 points and 4 blocks.
- Russell Westbrook will be seeking triple-double number 34.
- OKC is looking to win its fourth-consecutive game.
- The Thunder is only 1.5 games back of the Clippers for the 5th-seed in the Western Conference.
Thunder @ Raptors. 6PM CT on FSOK.