Oklahoma City Thunder (20-36) play the first half of a very important back-to-back this Sunday as they continue their Eastern Conference road trip. They face the Toronto (Tampa Bay) Raptors who look to win their third straight game after beating the Spurs and the Magic. Two weeks ago, the Thunder surprisingly beat the Raptors, making that the only win the Thunder have managed since the trade deadline (1-12 since the deadline) and OKC could look to make it a sweep.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (foot) remains out for the contest as well as Mike Muscala (ankle), Gabriel Deck (Not with the team), and Josh Hall (Knee). Lu Dort (hip) is questionable while Aleksej Pokusevski (arm soreness) is probable. This means there will be extended runs for the remaining youngsters Theo Maledon, Darius Bazley, Isaiah Roby, and Moses Brown. As there has been for the entire second half of the season.
After a close loss to the Detroit Pistons Friday night, it will be interesting to see how OKC adapts and adjust to more potent competition. The Raptors may potentially be without Fred VanVleet (hip), Kyle Lowry, OG Anunoby, and Pascal Siakam.
Nick Nurse and the Raptors have a knack for finding productive players in unlikely places (quite similar to how OKC does) and last game it was 26-year-old undrafted Forward Paul Watson who dropped 30 points against the Orlando Magic in his first NBA career start. In their win against the Spurs, it was an even spread with all 5 starters scoring over 11 points, with rookie point guard Malachi Flynn notching 16 points and 7 assists.
The key to a win for the Raptors would be to keep the Thunder out of the paint as best as possible. The Thunder are among the bottom four teams in three-point percentage and have slinked all the way to the worst offense in the league which is impressive seeing as the Cavs exist. If Chris Boucher and Khem Birch can protect the paint enough and force OKC into making jumpers, the game will be as good as done.
Assuming the Raptors rest their main guys, the most interesting matchup on the court could be with the bigs. Will Moses Brown and Isaiah Roby continue their emergence offensively against the long arms of Chris Boucher and Khem Birch or will Boucher who is third in the league for shots blocked smack the daylight out of the ball every time. Stay tuned to find out about that one.
It is unclear whether the Raptors are going for the 10th seed, they are only half a game behind the Bulls and Wizards for that spot, but a win tonight will help in securing a play-in spot. Meanwhile, another loss tonight for the Thunder would make it a 10-game losing streak. The Thunder are currently tied in record with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and every win or loss is crucial down the stretch for OKC to try to ensure better lottery odds. The Tank rolls on!
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