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Raptors back home to take on the Thunder: Preview, start time, and more

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After an impressive road win in Boston last night, Toronto looks to start a new streak when they host the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight.

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Toronto Raptors Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

One thing is for certain: #LowryTime is happening a lot more often this season. He was spectacular last night, finishing with 30 points and seven assists while shooting 5-of-10 from beyond the arc in a 113-97 win against the Boston Celtics. He’s stepped up since Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol, and Norman Powell all went down, averaging 26.4 points per game, shooting nearly 43 percent from 3 (on almost 10 attempts per game!). Toronto has gone 3-2 in this stretch.

Oklahoma City is in town today, and if history is any indication, Toronto is in for a tough one. The Thunder have not lost in Toronto since an 88-100 loss on November 4th of 2014. They currently sit seventh in the west with a record of 16-15. They have been playing great ball recently, going 7-3 in their last 10 games. This included back-to-back victories against the Bulls and Grizzlies (in which they were down over 20 points in the second half of both games), as well as impressive wins against the Clippers and Jazz. Canada’s own, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been on a tear recently, scoring over 20 points in five straight contests.

Toronto is on the tail-end of a back-to-back and Oklahoma City is playing their third game in four nights. The Thunder look to continue their win-streak in Canada, while the Raptors look to start one of their own. Here are the details for tonight’s game.

Where to Watch:

Sportsnet One, 6:00 PM EST

Lineups:

Toronto – Fred VanVleet, Kyle Lowry, Patrick McCaw, OG Anunoby, Serge Ibaka

Oklahoma City – Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Terrance Ferguson, Darius Bazley, Steven Adams

Injuries:

Toronto – Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol, Norman Powell, Matt Thomas, Dewan Hernandez

Oklahoma City – Dennis Schroder, Danilo Gallinari, Hamidou Diallo, Andre Roberson

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Fred VanVleet, an All-Star?

The east this season has looked to be a bloodbath. From the usual suspects of Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Boston, to the new guns in Miami and Indiana, there’s plenty of talent across the conference and the records show it. Milwaukee has Giannis and Middleton, the Sixers have Embiid, Simmons, and Harris, Boston have Kemba and the Jays. Not to mention the talent in the bottom half. Spencer Dinwiddie has been spectactular in Kyrie Irving’s absence. Again, a lot of talent — but limited spaces.

It is a longshot for VanVleet to be named an All-Star, especially with Siakam and Lowry playing so well this season, but he’s had an incredible season to date. He stepped up during Lowry’s absence and continued playing well in Lowry’s return. He’s an unrestricted free agent this summer and his play so far this season has made re-signing him long term look like a very easy decision to make for Toronto.

What’s Next for CP3?

It’s been only two weeks since he’s been eligible to be traded, but will Chris Paul finish the season in a Thunder jersey? The league is littered with premier point guards, including Oklahoma City’s own 3-headed beast of Gilgeous-Alexander, Paul, and Schroder, which means finding a reliable suitor for Paul is difficult. He’s 34 with three years left on the max contract he signed in the summer of 2018. Miami, which is often the first team that’s mentioned as a potential destination for Paul, has started the season 23-8, and barring any drastic change in their play, will not look to rock the boat with a blockbuster trade.

It’s a tricky situation to be in. Paul is still more than capable of pushing a team to contender status, but his contract will not allow it. Oklahoma City’s ceiling as of now is a first round out, but with all the picks they’ve accumulated in the Paul George trade, there’s no strong incentive to start a full rebuild. Gilgeous-Alexander’s continued emergence could propel the Thunder to make a move, but only if it’s another steal. And with Paul’s contract, it’s an unlikely proposition.

The Unknowns

Patrick McCaw has been starting recently, but he finally played like a starter last night. Against the Celtics he finished with 18 points, 8 assists, and 7 rebounds. Nick Nurse made an adjustment to have both Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet play off-ball and it paid dividends, allowing Patrick McCaw the freedom to make plays. A lot has been said about McCaw and his passivity, or why he gets so much minutes, but he managed to stay aggressive all night and we now know he’s better on-ball than off it.

Another Raptor who stepped up was Oshae Brissett. The Mississauga native played with great effort against the Celtics last night. It’s been the first game this season where he’s got meaningful minutes and he managed to help swing momentum for Toronto on the road in a historically tough building to win in for the Raptors. He played great defense at the end of the third against Jayson Tatum forcing him into an airball and in the fourth, his effort helped squash any momentum the Celtics had built.

Kyle Lowry put it nicely after the win against the Celtics, “Like tonight, Oshae Brissett, no one knows who the hell he is and he comes in and steps up.” Let’s see if he’s up for the challenge again.