This Toronto Raptors season has felt like a rollercoaster so far, and the ride continues tonight in Oklahoma City as the Raptors face the Thunder!
As we settle more into the season, Toronto hasn’t really been able to relax yet themselves.
After an incredible, All-Star, ALL-NBA worthy start from Pascal Siakam, he strained his right adductor muscle and is currently out. On Wednesday night, Precious Achiuwa injured his ankle against the Houston Rockets; he’s been diagnosed with partial tears in his ankle and is out indefinitely. Even Wonder Boy Scottie Barnes has experienced injury. Can the Raptors catch a break?
Despite these injuries and few others from Fred VanVleet, Chris Boucher and Otto Porter Jr. to start the season, the Raptors are currently 7-5. Their last game was a win against the Rockets at home on Wednesday.
A win tonight would push them to 8-5, keeping them in the 4-5th seed range in the Eastern Conference. A loss would put them at 7-6, a little too close to .500 to be comfortable and at risk of falling down in the standings.
With Siakam out for at least a few weeks longer, and their depth at risk with Achiuwa injured, this is a pivotal moment for the Raptors to keep the shop afloat while their #1 option waits to return.
The Thunder should be an easy team to accomplish this goal against, but a few mistakes from the Raptors could cost them the game.
Don’t miss the Toronto Raptors take on the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight at 8:00 p.m. on Sportsnet.
Staying Strong Defensively
I think it’s getting safer and safer to say that the Raptors have a strong Defensive Player of the Year Candidate in O.G. Anunoby. He currently has 37 steals on the season, averaging 3.1 per game (first in the NBA).
OG Anunoby:— Brett Usher (@UsherNBA) November 9, 2022
Leads the league in steals
2nd in deflections
5th in loose balls recovered
2nd in defensive win shares
Career-highs in BPG and RPG
+12.1 on/off NetRtg diff
Raptors 5th in DRtg#WeTheNorth pic.twitter.com/WSoMthbyzz
Yet, they’ve still struggled with defence in recent games. In the game against the Rockets, they let Houston go 7-for-8 on three point shots and score 37 points in the first quarter. It took them the rest of the first half to get back even with the Rockets.
In tonight’s game, the Raptors will need to start out of the gate with high energy to avoid an early run from OKC. Their history of slumps could come back to haunt them after a week full of travel, and getting ahead early will help.
It’ll be up to O.G. Anunoby and Fred VanVleet — who is #2, right behind Anunoby, in steals per game in the NBA — to lead the defence.
The Fred VanVleet Factor
Fred VanVleet is on a great run since returning from a lower back strain injury. He’s scored 32, 27 and 30 in this last three games. With Pascal Siakam out, VanVleet needs to make up the loss when it comes to points. He needs to be in the 25-30 range every night while also playmaking in order to cover Siakam’s load.
Fred VanVleet dropped a 32-piece in the @Raptors win! #WeTheNorth@FredVanVleet: 32 PTS, 4 AST, 4 STL, 7 3PM pic.twitter.com/DWBCgYfnzz— NBA (@NBA) November 10, 2022
VanVleet, with the help of Anunoby and Scottie Barnes, has been doing just that. With these games tending to be close near the end, it’s VanVleet’s clutch threes and ability to get to the rim that tends to save Toronto from downfall.
He currently averaged 18.8 points, 7.2 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game, while also averaging 37.4 minutes per game. He is a BIG factor to the Raptors success, and any game that is to be won during this Siakam-less stretch needs a strong performance from him.
Usually when we talk about SGA, he’s playing for the Canadian National Team and we’re cheering him on. Not today — he’s the opponent tonight!
Brace yourself for these stats:
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is currently averaging 31.6 points, 5.6 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game this season. His point average is 5th in the NBA. As a Canadian, I’m proud. As a Raptors fan heading into a game against OKC, I’m scared.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander this season:— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) November 4, 2022
32 Points, 5 Assists, 6 Rebounds
28 Points, 7 Assists, 3 Rebounds
33 Points, 8 Assists, 5 Rebounds
24 Points, 6 Assists, 5 Rebounds
38 Points, 9 Assists, 6 Rebounds
34 Points, 6 Assists, 4 Rebounds
37 Points, 3 Assists, 4 Rebounds pic.twitter.com/mdAkZdiWWU
We can assume Anunoby will get the defensive assignment of SGA, and he’ll need to contain him if the Raptors are going to win. Just like their games against Chicago last week, the game plan will likely revolve around SGA like it did around DeRozan.
Let’s hope we don’t see another Maxey situation.
This is the start of three game road trip for the Raptors that will take them to OKC, Indiana and Detroit. What do you think their record will be over this three game stretch?
Watch the Raptors vs. Oklahoma City Thunder tonight at 8 p.m. on Sportsnet.