It’s trippy to consider this version of Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that has been led by familiar star players for its entire existence as a franchise. The changeover just feels so massive. Nowadays, OKC’s leading scorer happens to be sophomore guard — and Canadian — Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, he of the delightfully evocative name and 19.4 points per game. That the Thunder also employ Chris Paul, a cranky legend and veteran cast-off, becomes just another interesting side plot. It’s not something I ever considered before this season.
But putting those two together has put the OKC at 16-15 on the season, and in seventh place in the West. They are, once again, a pesky team — especially with Steven Adams still manning the pivot and (when healthy) the likes of Danilo Gallinari and Dennis Schroder. Those latter two players won’t play tonight, but they’re worth making note of anyway.
As for the Raptors, despite their recent letdown on Christmas Day, the team looks to have regained its footing while on the road in Boston last night. This even after two of their forwards — Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and OG Anunoby — fouled out of said game; and this, of course, before we account for the continued absence of Marc Gasol, Norman Powell, and [sigh] Pascal Siakam. There’s no good news to report there, except to note that Patrick McCaw played the game of his life on Saturday — and Oshae Brissett proved he can play actual NBA minutes in a limited role. (He’s Canadian too, by the way.)
So yes, the vibe tonight with the Thunder in town is different than it’s ever been before. That makes for a compelling night, a contest we have never quite seen before, something that could be, well, something. On that note, get up to speed with the game details below (and here’s the preview from this morning).
And then, let’s watch.
Where to Watch:
Sportsnet One, 6:00pm EST
Toronto – Fred VanVleet, Kyle Lowry, Patrick McCaw, OG Anunoby, Serge Ibaka
Oklahoma City – Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Terrance Ferguson, Darius Bazley, Steven Adams
Toronto – Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol, Norman Powell, Matt Thomas, Dewan Hernandez
Oklahoma City – Dennis Schroder, Danilo Gallinari, Hamidou Diallo, Andre Roberson