After starting the season with a franchise best, 4-0 record, the Toronto Raptors face a western powerhouse in the Oklahoma City Thunder. Although, the Thunder have made some moves over the seasons to bring in new faces, there are a couple guys by the names of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant who will give the Raps all they can handle on the defensive end.
Amid the offseason, Toronto focused on defence and so far it seems to have paid off as the club is limiting opponents to an Eastern conference-best 38.7% in field goal percentage through the first four games of the season. However, if there’s one club the Raptors should have a problem containing, it is without a doubt the Oklahoma City Thunder. So far, the Thunder are the second best in both field goal percentage (48.4) and 3-point percentage (40.4). It’s an interconference battle of the heavyweights as the Raptors defence is put to the test against Oklahoma City.
Cage’s Keys to the Game
Defend the Perimeter
As mentioned before, the Thunder are second best when it comes to shooting the 3 ball. If the Raptors don’t shut down the perimeter from the start, Oklahoma City will make them pay for it. Aside from Kevin Durant already being a deadly shooter, guys such as Anthony Morrow, D.J. Augustin and Andre Roberson shoot 40% or better from deep.
So far this season, Oklahoma City is the only team to average more than 20 turnovers a game with a league-leading 21 turnovers a game. This a category the Raptors must focus on in order to win tonights game. Getting stops, disrupting the offense, whatever it is that needs to be done, the Raptors need to showcase their defensive improvement.
Protect the Paint
Don’t underestimate any of the Thunder’s bigs. Oklahoma City has a plethora of big men that are offensively versatile. Whether they hit the open man or get themselves open, the Raptors must do their best to limit the offensive opportunities in the paint for the Thunder.
X-Factor: DeMarre Carroll
I feel as though this will be a game where DeMarre will truly show us his worth as he was brought in to guard the opposing teams best player. In this game, he will have to do his best to defend a former MVP in Kevin Durant. Although, KD missed a lot of last season, he’s playing as if he hasn’t missed a beat. He’s averaging almost 30 points on 48% shooting.