Game Preview: Raptors @ Thunder
Holly MacKenzie - Raptors.com
The Toronto Raptors kick off their first two-game road trip of the season in Oklahoma City where they’ll face a Thunder team getting used to life without Kevin Durant.
Tip-off: 8:00 P.M. ET
Broadcast Info: SNET1 / TSN1050
The surprise of the offseason was Kevin Durant deciding to leave Oklahoma City to join a Golden State Warriors team that had defeated the Thunder in seven games in the Western Conference Finals. His departure means a different Thunder team than the one the NBA has grown accustomed to over Durant’s nine years in the league. Through seven games, Oklahoma City is showing that although different, they are still an extremely capable and difficult opponent. The Thunder boast a 6-1 record, their lone loss coming against that Warriors team.
With the Thunder, the top priority is easy to identify and nearly impossible to stop. When it comes to Russell Westbrook, hoping to slow him is a more realistic plan than thinking you’ll be able to stop him completely.
“He’s a one-man wrecking crew by himself,” Dwane Casey said. “The thing that Westbrook brings to the table is his intensity. It’s contagious. That entire team just beats the crap out of you for 48 minutes and if you don’t come in ready for that type of intensity and how hard they play from one through 15, it’s a long night.”
Numbers on the board
Wednesday’s Thunder/Raptors match up features two of the top four scorers in the league. DeMar DeRozan currently leads the way, averaging 33.7 points per contest, while Westbrook is fourth with 30.4 points per game. Although Dwane Casey would certainly like for his team’s three-point shooting and assist numbers to be up, he appreciates the run that DeRozan is on.
“I’d rather for us to have it distributed around, but DeMar is having a career year,” Casey said. “Westbrook [too], there must be something in the water, I don’t know. You have a lot of guys in the league doing that. I’m glad our guy’s doing that. DeMar is doing a great job, but we’ve got to get other people playing their offensive games. We have some guys not shooting the ball well right now and that will take some of the pressure off and make [DeMar’s] job even easier when they start to knock down shots.”
Through six games, the Raptors are last in the league in three-point shooting, connecting on 26.2 percent of their attempts. Casey is confident his shooters will get back on track soon, saying he’d rather the team have a shooting slump now than later on in the season. DeMarre Carroll, who broke a team record by making 85 of 100 three-pointers during a shooting session after practice on Tuesday, agreed with his coach’s assessment.
“It’s all about rhythm,” Carroll said. “Me personally, I need to figure out where I’m going to get [my shots from], when I’m going to get them. I have to be ready to shoot them. DeMar’s got it going right now so we’re really playing off him…We’ll figure it out.”
Valanciunas day-to-day with knee contusion
Jonas Valanciunas missed Sunday’s game against the Sacramento Kings with a left knee contusion. He spoke with reporters after the game and said he couldn’t recall a specific moment where he had hurt his knee, but it had happened earlier in the week. When he arrived to the arena on Sunday and spoke with medical staff, they made the decision to rest him.
Valanciunas did not practice on Tuesday prior to the team flying out to Oklahoma City. His status id listed as day-to-day heading into Wednesday’s game.