- When: Tuesday, 04 November 2014 at 6:30 PM CST
- Where: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Four games in and the Oklahoma City Thunder sit at a record they haven’t seen since their inaugural season in 2008. That much was to be expected with the rash of injuries the team has faced. What wasn’t expected was the effort with which the team has exhibited. In the first two games of the season, against top flight teams in the Western Conference, the Thunder were in the game well into the 4th quarter. On Saturday, against a Denver Nuggets team that was looking to rebound from a disappointing, injury-plagued season last year, the Thunder executed almost perfectly throughout the game to get their first victory of the season. The return of Reggie Jackson from an ankle injury was supposed to provide the team with the playmaker they had been missing since Russell Westbrook went out early in the 2nd game of the season. Instead, Jackson’s return brought the team back to its iso-ball ways and they were blown out by the Brooklyn Nets.
It’ll be interesting to see how Scott Brooks adjusts to this. On the one hand, you now have a ball-handler that can threaten a defense (Jackson). But on the other hand, your best bet to win with this lineup is to completely muddy up the game by slowing it down and hope that it becomes a defensive battle.
The Thunder and the Toronto Raptors split their two meetings from last season, each winning on the other’s home court. Each game went down to the 4th quarter, with the average margin of victory being 3.5 points.
The Raptors come into the game with a 2-1 record. Last year, they won the Atlantic Divison, and made their first trip to the postseason since the 2007-08 season. They battled their division rival, the Brooklyn Nets, and lost in 7 games. But the spark had been lit and the fan resurgence in Toronto was reminiscent of the Vince Carter days. The team is led by one of the better backcourts in the league, with PG Kyle Lowry and SG DeMar DeRozan. The duo is averaging nearly 42 points and 5 steals a game. The other wing, Terrence Ross, is averaging almost 10 points a game, but has the ability to go off for big numbers, as evidenced by his 51 point explosion last season against the Clippers. Up front, Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas make up one of the more athletic and versatile front courts in the league. Off the bench, the Raptors are a mix of young veterans like Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson, Lou Williams, and James Johnson.
Probable Starting Line-up
- PG – Kyle Lowry
- SG – Terrence Ross
- SF – DeMar DeRozan
- PF – Amir Johnson (Game-time decision due to ankle)
- C – Jonas Valanciunas
Oklahoma City Thunder
- PG – Sebastian Telfair
- SG – Reggie Jackson
- SF – Perry Jones
- PF – Serge Ibaka
- C – Steven Adams
3 Keys to the Game
1. Perimeter Depth and Fouls – Lowry and DeRozan are personal foul magnets. You look at them and you might get called for a foul. Between the both of them, they are averaging 21 free attempts per game. That’s on some Durant/Westbrook levels right there. With only 2 guards on the entire roster (Andre Roberson is out with a sprained foot) look for the Raptors’ wings to attack Jackson and Telfair.
2. Shut Down the Lane – The Thunder have been employing an effective zone lately. If there was ever a team to trot that out on, it would be the Raptors. Collectively, they only shoot 42.5% from the field and 25.4% from deep.
3. Ugly it Up – The biggest mistake that can be taken from the Nets’ game was trying to keep up with them. The reason the Thunder’s first 3 games were close was because we slowed the game down and slogged it out. With Jackson back in the fold, we relaxed defensively and tried to run offensively, which back-fired on us.