Time: 8:30 PM CST
TV: ESPN & FSOK
The Oklahoma City Thunder (42-29) return to action tonight at Chesapeake Energy Arena, squaring off against Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors (50-21). The Thunder enter having lost three straight and nine of their last 13 games, most recently falling to the Miami Heat while Russell Westbrook served a one-game suspension on Monday. The Brodie will be back in the lineup tonight against the second-best team in the Eastern Conference, hoping to take advantage of Kyle Lowry’s absence (ankle) to avoid a four-game losing streak for OKC.
Nick Collison’s jersey retirement ceremony will kick-off festivities at 8:00 p.m. CST. Tip-off is at 8:30 and will be televised on ESPN and Fox Sports Oklahoma. The Thunder are 4.5-point home favorites according to Odds Shark.
- Nerlens Noel: Questionable — Quad
- Andre Roberson: Out — Knee
- Kyle Lowry: Out — Ankle
Raptors: Fred VanVleet, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka
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What to Watch For
Brodie Back. Westbrook is back in the starting lineup for the Thunder, welcomed news considering how things went on Monday. He scored just seven points on 2-of-16 shooting on Saturday against the Warriors, so here’s to a rebound performance versus the Lowry-less Raptors. Dennis Schroder will shift back to his role as sixth man — hopefully the shot of life the Thunder second unit needs.
Bench Play. Miami’s reserves torched the Thunder bench 67-10 on Monday night, so you have to feel a little concerned about how they’ll handle Marc Gasol, Jeremy Lin, and the rest of the Toronto second unit. Nerlens Noel (quad) is still questionable, so Gasol especially presents an issue if Noel can’t go. Patrick Patterson would likely be forced into a few more minutes, as Deonte Burton can’t do anything with the big Spaniard.
PG vs Kawhi. Paul George and Kawhi Leonard will face off in a battle between elite two-way wings in the midst of outstanding seasons. Here’s a look at their numbers coming into tonight:
George: 28.3 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 4.2 APG, 2.2 SPG, 44% FG, 39% 3P
Leonard: 27.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.8 SPG, 49.7% FG, 37.1% 3P
George has been defense-proof for most of the season, but he’s been a bit more human as of late. How he handles the pressure of Kawhi chasing him around could be the key to the OKC offense.
Raptors Attack. Kawhi Leonard leads the Raptors in scoring at 27.1 PPG (49.7% FG, 37% 3P), adding 7.4 rebounds and his typically elite defense. He’s joined by Most Improved Player candidate, Pascal Siakam (16.4 PPG), in a difficult matchup for Jerami Grant. Serge Ibaka (15 PPG, 8 RPG) is back from a three-game suspension (swung at a someone again) and figures to re-join the starting lineup. Toronto shoots 35.6 percent from downtown as a team (11th), has the sixth-best offense in basketball (112.2 ORTG), and the number seven defense (107 DRTG).
Nick. Collison’s iconic no. 4 will be raised to the rafters of Chesapeake Energy Arena prior to tip-off, a fitting honor for an honorable man. With the way the bench performed on Monday (-57), perhaps Mr. Thunder should just put the jersey on and give Billy Donovan 10-12 minutes off the bench. Fundamentals don’t age, folks.