Tag Archives: Amir Johnson

Oklahoma City Thunder at Toronto Raptors preview (Game 5 of 82)

adams valanciunas thunder raptors

  • 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 Opponent

lowry ross derozan johnson valanciunas raptors

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

Toronto Raptors

  • 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.

DeMar DeRozan, Kendrick Perkins

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.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Toronto Raptors preview (Game 69 of 82)

durant valanciunas sefolosha westbrook raptors thunder

  • When: Friday, 21 March 2014 at 6:00 PM CST
  • Where: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario

Rewind back to this point last season when we were not only keeping track of the Thunder’s record, but also keeping track of the Raptor’s record. Because of the James Harden trade at the beginning of last season, the Thunder held the Raptors first round pick, which was Top 3 and 15-30 protected. At this point last season, it was known that the Raptors weren’t making the playoffs. The only question was where the Raptors would be picking in the 2013 NBA Draft. Well, the Thunder ended up with the 12th pick and they selected Steven Adams with that pick. Fast forward to this season, and the Raptors are the No. 3 seed in the East. If that pick would have somehow been moved to this season, the Thunder would have had to wait another season for a possible lottery pick. Thank goodness Rudy Gay happened to the Raptors last season.

This will be the 2nd and final meeting of the season between these two teams. The Raptors beat the Thunder on Dec. 22nd, 104-98. In that game, the Raptors used a 15 point advantage in the 4th quarter to turn a 9-point deficit into a 6-point victory. The Raptors had 5 players that scored at least 13 points, while, for the Thunder, only Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook scored in double figures.

The Opponent

toronto raptors

The Raptors’ season could be broken down into two phases: With Rudy Gay and Post Rudy Gay. In the first 19 games of the season, the Raptors were 7-12 and looking like a lottery bound team. Then they traded Rudy Gay to the Sacramento Kings. Since then, they are 31-17 and one of the top defensive teams in the league. They allow only 97.5 points per game, good for 5th in the league. They are led by Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Lowry has become one of the better offensive point guards in the league and DeRozan has become a much better scorer in Gay’s absence. Terrence Ross is hot and cold, but if he gets hot, he has the ability to score many points in a short time. Up front, Amir Johnson is a double double waiting to happen, and Jonas Valanciunas is just now tapping into his potential. The Rudy Gay trade provided the team with much of their fire power off the bench and leads to a much balanced team.

Probable Starting Line-Up

Toronto Raptors

  • PG – Kyle Lowry
  • SG – Terrence Ross
  • SF – DeMar DeRozan
  • PF – Amir Johnson
  • C – Jonas Valanciunas

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Andre Roberson
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Steven Adams

3 Keys to the Game

1. Pick and Roll Defense – Kyle Lowry does a great job of penetrating in the lane and using his strength to score in the paint or rack up fouls on the opposing team. His PnR with Amir Johnson is one of the better ones in the league. And if the defense collapses, Terrance Ross (who shoots over 40% from 3-point territory) and DeMar DeRozan are waiting on the wing. A lot like the Lakers game, this may be a game where Roberson’s perimeter defense helps the Thunder out.

Kyle Lowry

2. Rebounding – The Raptors aren’t necessarily a great rebounding team, but their big wings and active interior players can get their hands on a lot of loose balls.

3. Last Team Standing – The Raptors are the only team the Thunder have not beat this season. True, they only play them twice due to the Raptors being an Eastern Conference team. But, beating every team in the league at least once is a feather in the cap in my books.

Toronto Raptors vs. Oklahoma City Thunder preview (Game 27 of 82)

adams draft thunder

  • When: Sunday, 22 December 2013 at 6:00 PM CST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

There was once a time when Oklahoma City Thunder fans really cared about the Toronto Raptors’ record. Not only would we scour the box scores for our games, but we’d also look at the Raptors’ games. Reason being, of course, because we owned the Raptors’ pick in the 2013 draft as part of the James Harden trade. The restriction was that the pick had to be between selections 4-14. Luckily the Raptors missed the playoffs and with that pick, the Thunder selected Steven Adams. Fast forward to this season, and we could really care less about Toronto’s record. The Thunder have beat the Raptors 3 straight times spanning the last two seasons.

The Opponent

valanciunas derozan raptors

The Raptors are team that you could term, “in flux”. The hired Masai Ujiri as general manager to take this middle of the road franchise, blow it up, and quickly rebuild it, like he did with the Denver Nuggets. His latest big move was to trade Rudy Gay and his $17.9 million dollar price tag (and possibly $19.3 million dollar next season if he opts in) to the Sacramento Kings for bit parts, most of whom are expiring after this season. That clearing of cap space will come in handy next season and beyond. But in the now, the Raptors are a bad team. Their back court is led by PG Kyle Lowry and wings Terrence Ross and Demar Derozan. All three players are talented, but are inefficient and need a high volume of shots to get to their averages. The front court is one of more promising ones this side of Detroit in the Eastern Conference. Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson are threats for a double double every time they step on the court. The bench play is a lot like the team itself, which is to say, not very good.

Probable Starting Line-Ups

Toronto Raptors

  • PG – Kyle Lowry
  • SG – Terrence Ross
  • SF – DeMar DeRozan
  • PF – Amir Johnson
  • C – Jonas Valanciunas

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Thabo Sefolosha
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Kendrick Perkins

3 Keys to the Game

1. Rebounding – Toronto is a terribly inefficient team from the perimeter. Their wing players who average at least 10 minutes per game combine to shoot 39.9% from the field. Lots of misses means lots of rebounds. Valanciunas and Johnson are adept at grabbing rebounds, especially offensive rebounds (grabbing 5.3 offensive rebounds per game between them).

westbrook perkins derozan johnson raptors thunder

2. Bench play – Toronto’s bench is veteran laden, but really lacking when it comes to anything offensive. This may be a time to take over the game as the Thunder’s bench has been humming lately.

3. Complacency/Trap Game – This game has all the makings of a trap game. Playing at home, against an inferior opponent, having just played the rival Spurs, and not playing again until the prime time tilt against the Knicks on Christmas. All a bad team needs is hope. It’s Christmas season, but let’s not be in a giving mood tonight.