- When: Sunday, 18 March 2018 at 12:00 pm CST
- Where: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario (Canada)
- TV: FSOK
- Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 930 AM (Spanish))
- Line: Tor -6.0 | O/U – 217
Here we go. That stretch run we all pointed to after the All-Star break. Eleven of the final 12 games against opponents that are currently above .500. The Oklahoma City Thunder took care of business on Friday evening against the Los Angeles Clippers to begin that tough stretch. Now they start the real test.
The Clippers are a fine team and have performed way above expectations after trading their top 2 players away this season. They’ve weathered all the storms that come with change and have made a valiant run at a Western Conference playoff berth. But the Clippers are not of the caliber of teams the Thunder will be facing over the next three weeks.
In their next two games, the Thunder will face the top two teams in the East on the road. In addition, they will also face the top team in the West on the road also during this stretch. The Thunder don’t necessarily have to win all the games ahead of them, but they will have to win at least half to stay in the playoff mix, maybe more to maintain their current playoff seeding of 4th. It will be excruciating, while at the same time being fun. In the end, though, this is what we, as Thunder fans, signed up for when we came into this season. “So it begins….”
Previous Meeting: These two teams met in late December, in what was one of the better games of the first half of the season for the Thunder. In that game, the Thunder, who won 124-107, were dominant in the middle quarters of the game, outscoring the Raptors by 20 points combined in the 2nd and 3rd quarters, turning a 6-point deficit at the end of the first into a 14-point lead heading into the fourth. They never looked back from there.
Russell Westbrook ended the night with 30 points, 8 rebounds, and 13 assists, while Paul George chipped in with 33 points on 7/10 shooting from deep. If you recall, the Thunder were so good in that game that the roof caught fire (actually it was a light at the top of the arena that burned out and caused some smoke, but the “we’re so good, the roof was on fire” line from Paul George sounds better).
Looking At The Numbers
1. Overall Consistency – The Toronto Raptors have transformed themselves into on of the most consistent teams in basketball on both ends of the court. They are 3rd in Offensive Rating, 4th in Defensive Rating, and 3rd in Net Rating. Translation: They are elite this season. They’ve won 18 of their last 19 games and have surged up to the top of the Eastern Conference. The Thunder will have to bring their A-game into Toronto to keep up with this current buzzsaw.
2. Bench – One of the biggest strengths for the Raptors has been the play of their bench. Their attack continues, even when the starters have left the court. They are 6th in the league in bench scoring at 41.3 points per game. In addition, they have the best bench unit net rating in the league. Undrafted 2nd year point guard Fred VanVleet has been a revelation this season. He’s like Marcus Smart, if Marcus Smart was shooting 39% from deep.
3. Take it to them – If there is a weakness for the Raptors, it’s that they tend to get foul happy from time to time. They allow 23.8 free throw attempts per game, which is 27th in the league. Having an aggressive attacker like Westbrook should help the Thunder soften the Raptor’s interior and get good looks not just for himself, but also for his teammates.