Time: 12:00 PM CT
Radio: WWLS (98.1 FM OKC/97.1 FM Tulsa)
With just 11 games remaining in the regular season, the Thunder (42-29) kicks off the toughest remaining schedule in the NBA with today’s game against the Toronto Raptors (52-17). In addition to today’s contest, OKC’s final stretch includes troublesome road match-ups against the Celtics, Spurs, Pelicans, and Rockets, with home games versus the Warriors and Blazers.
As of now, OKC sits comfortably in fourth place in the Western Conference with a 1.5-game edge over the Utah Jazz. However, a comfortable fourth seed could easily turn into a devastating ninth seed with a couple of losses. Furthermore, the Thunder still has a chance at moving up to the three seed, which might be the best case scenario. I’m getting ahead of myself, though. Today’s game and basically every remaining game are must-wins for OKC.
Tip-off is at 12:00 PM CT on Fox Sports Oklahoma. The Thunder is a 7-point underdog according to Odds Shark.
- Andre Roberson: Out – Knee
- Norman Powell: Doubtful – Ankle
Raptors: Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, OG Anunoby, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas
|Team||EFG%||FTA Rate||TOV%||OREB%||OPP EFG%||OPP FTA||OPP TOV%||OPP OREB%|
Thunder O & D
Raptors O & D
Dec. 27: OKC 124, TOR 107 [BOX SCORE]
The Corey Brewer Effect. In five games, Corey Brewer has turned out to be everything OKC fans could hope for in a temporary Andre Roberson replacement. The Thunder is 5-0 when Brewer is in the starting lineup and in those games, Brewer is averaging 10.8 PPG on 52.3 percent shooting from the field, 50 percent from three, and 95.2 percent from the line. He has also scored in double digits five times in seven games.
On Friday against the Clippers, Brewer had a season-high 22 points and six steals. As a former college player for Coach Billy Donovan, Brewer’s transition into the Thunder offense has been almost seamless. After Friday’s win, Coach Donovan said, “When you’re having Taj [Gibson] come in like he did last year, he’s a great guy, total pro, worked hard, but I’m learning him. He’s learning me. There was no learning with Corey.” In addition to shooting well, Brewer adds a certain late-game spark to this Thunder team that could help carry OKC safely through these final 11 games.
Top Dog Toronto. The Toronto Raptors have quietly made their way to the top of the Eastern Conference standings and are looking for a franchise-record 12th-consecutive win today versus OKC. The last time these two teams faced off, it took 33 points from Paul George and 30 points from Russell Westbrook to defeat the Raptors. The Thunder will need a similar level of offensive firepower to defeat the Raptors, who are averaging 112.3 points per game (3rd in the NBA) to the Thunder’s 107.1 points per game (13th in the NBA). The Thunder may have a slight advantage, as the Raptors are coming off an overtime win from Friday night over the Dallas Mavericks. Additionally, the Raptors starting small forward, OG Anunoby, is just returning from missing seven games with a sprained ankle.
Slowing DeRozan & Lowry: The Raptors are led by their outstanding backcourt of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. DeRozan is averaging 23.7 points, 5.1 assists and 4.0 rebounds for the East’s best team. Lowry contributes 16.3 points, 6.7 assists, and 5.6 rebounds. They combined for 28 points on 7-of-26 shooting in the Thunder’s win over Toronto on December 27 — but that came against an OKC defense that featured Andre Roberson. Life could/should be more difficult today on the road in Toronto.
Triple-Double Time. On Friday night, Russell Westbrook notched his 101st career triple-double and his 22nd triple-double of the season. While many critics have changed their minds about the importance of triple-doubles, there’s no arguing over the impact of a Westbrook triple-double on the outcome of the game. This season, the Thunder is 17-5 when Westbrook has a triple-double and 83-18 all-time. Westbrook could still become the first player in NBA history to average a triple-double in consecutive seasons, however, he’ll need to average a nearly impossible 14 rebounds per game for the rest of the season to do so. Even still, he’s averaging 25.2 points, 10.2 assists, and 9.7 rebounds per game. In OKC’s previous game against the Raptors, he fell two rebounds short of a triple-double.
Steven & Jonas: Steven Adams and Jonas Valanciunas have a history of getting under each other’s skin, so that’s a pair to watch today. Adams got the better of the match-up in OKC’s win on December 27 — even dropping this hammer over the big man in traffic: