Richard Rowe-US PRESSWIRE
Toronto looks to bounce back after Friday nights loss to the Sacramento Kings with a strong effort this afternoon against the defending Western Conference Champion Oklahoma City Thunder at the ACC. The HQ's Chris Walder previews todays big game.
"When you hear the sound of Thunder, don't you get to scared. Just grab your Thunder buddy, and say these magic words...."
Honestly, you didn't think I was going to finish that song, did you?
The Thunder have played the fewest amount of road games in the league (12), but are about to embark on a stretch that will see the team play 11 of their next 13 away from home.
The last time these two teams faced off was back on November 6th when the Thunder put a 20 point beat down on the Raps 108-88 at Chesapeake Energy arena. Russell Westbrook led the way with 19 points and 8 assists while Kevin Durant contributed 15 points on just 4 for 11 shooting.
As a team, OKC shot 47% from the field, while holding Toronto to 35% shooting and 17 turnovers.
Were they looking too far ahead instead of focusing on the task at hand? Possibly.
It would have been nice to see the Raptors secure there ninth win in ten games and have some much needed momentum going in to this afternoons clash with the Thunder, but unfortunately, that won't be the case.
Facing a team the caliber of Oklahoma City will be anything but a walk in the park, so Toronto is going to have to be on top of there game to pull off the upset.
Is it possible?
Here is your "Triple W: Walder's Winning Ways" for the game.
1) Force Turnovers
The Thunder sit second from the bottom in the league with 15.2 turnovers a game. Both Russell Westbrook (3.5) and Kevin Durant (3.5) rank in the top 10, which is not a great distinction to have.
More turnovers mean more possessions where Oklahoma City isn't scoring. They rank second in the league in scoring at 105.6 a game.
OKC loves to push the tempo, but they have a tendency to be careless with the ball at times.
That's where the Raptors need to strike.
2) Control The Paint (Ibaka)
Back in November, Ibaka scored 17 points on 8 for 9 shooting.
Considering the troubles Toronto had defending the paint on Friday, they better hope that there is no hangover leaking into today.
It's bad enough having to go up against two elite scorers in Westbrook (21.8) and Durant (28.3), but if Ibaka can somehow find a rhythm offensively, then watch out.
3) Effort, Effort and More Effort
Even as a Raptors fan, it's hard to imagine Toronto walking away with the victory today against such an established team like the Thunder.
I'm sure the players have been fed that all week.
However, it wouldn't be the first time an elite NBA team has looked past their opponent. Considering the long road trip ahead and the early start time, perhaps the Raptors can catch OKC napping.
Any advantage is a good advantage. Excluding Fridays doozy of a loss to the Kings, this Raptors team has been on fire as of late and shouldn't get down on their luck just yet.
Toronto needs to continue distributing the basketball, getting easy looks at the rim and playing solid defense just as they have been these past 10 games.