Game Preview: Raptors vs. Thunder
The Raptors look to win their second in a row as they host the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Air Canada Centre on Thursday. Facing the Thunder also means facing triple-double machine Russell Westbrook who recorded his 33rd triple-double of the season in Oklahoma City's 122-104 victory against the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday. The Thunder come to Toronto having won three straight.
Tip-off: 7:00 P.M. ET
Broadcast info: SN1 / SN590
Westbrook doing it all
One of the most exciting parts of Kevin Durant signing with the Golden State Warriors this past offseason was wondering what Russell Westbrook would do as the No. 1 option for the Thunder.
67 games, 38 victories, and 33 triple-doubles later the results have been entirely awesome. Westbrook is averaging a staggering 31.8 points, 10.6 rebounds, 10.3 assists and 1.6 steals per game. Most important for OKC, Westbrook has the Thunder sixth in a highly competitive Western Conference.
"It's amazing," DeMar DeRozan said. "I'm definitely a fan. I always loved watching Russ play. It's just incredible to see that type of player, what he's doing every single night, put up the numbers, the assists, the rebounds, everything, play with the intensity he plays."
What sets Westbrook apart in a league of superhero athletes is the ferocity he plays with every time he steps onto the floor. Raptors head coach Dwane Casey had a former player come to mind when discussing Westbrook's competitiveness.
"I tell you what, he's a freak of nature," Casey said. "He's just continuous, coming at you with the same spirit, the same force. You wait for him to take a night off and he doesn't. He just continues to come at you, come at you. You're waiting for him to run out of energy but he's just one of those players. I had Gary Payton, [he] was the same way. Every night you know what you're gonna get out of Gary Payton, it's the same with Westbrook. He's coming out to try to take your spirit every time he walks on the floor."
DeRozan agreed with his coach while also taking the opportunity to point out that two of the league's MVP candidates — Westbrook and Houston's James Harden — are fellow Californians.
"It's incredible," DeRozan said. "He's like I-Robot or something. It's definitely amazing to see him do it every single night, no matter if it's a back-to-back, whatever it may be. It's incredible. I don't even know how to put it in words, every time I watch him play."
Letting it fly
The Toronto Raptors attempted 25 3-pointers in Monday's victory against the Dallas Mavericks. After making just seven threes combined in back-to-back losses in Atlanta and Miami, the makes were welcomed, but head coach Dwane Casey is most pleased with the number of threes his team is taking.
While hesitancy and doubt can creep in when shots aren't falling, continuing to take open looks is crucial.
"It's one of those things where you gotta make sure you get the attempts up," Casey said. "If you get an open look you gotta take it, if you're a 3-point shooter. You don't want somebody who's not a 3-point shooter out there, but our 3-point shooters know who they are. Just check their records early in the season. They know who they are."
When a shooter is going through a slump, the only way through it is, well, through it. Getting through it means shooting through it.
"They just gotta catch and shoot it," Casey said. " It's not something you can force somebody to do, it's gotta be natural, but when you look out there and guys are turning down shots before they even catch the ball, that's the issue. We have all the confidence in the world in our shooters. We have some great 3-point shooters. We just have to make sure that's a priority."
Carroll inching closer
DeMarre Carroll sprained his ankle in Milwaukee on Mar. 4 when he was trying to crash the offensive glass for a rebound. After missing Toronto's victory against the New Orleans Pelicans, Carroll played in the loss agains the Atlanta Hawks, but was a late scratch against the Miami Heat the next day, and also sat for Toronto's blowout win against the Dallas Mavericks on Monday.
While Carroll's availability for Thursday's game is not known, it's a positive that he was able to go through practice on Wednesday.
"Yeah, he practiced today," Casey said. "We'll see what happens tomorrow, how he feels tomorrow, but he practiced today, went through, no issues. We'll see how he feels after, tonight."