NBA Starting Lineups and Match Prediction - Oklahoma City Thunder vs Toronto Raptors
The Toronto Raptors and OKC Thunder met Wednesday, March 20th, 2019 in Oklahoma City in what resulted in a 123-114 victory for the Toronto Raptors. The Raptors got 33 points from Pascal Siakam who may be the league's MIP (Most Improved Player) in 2019. He was supported by 23 points from Fred VanVleet, who started in place of Kyle Lowry, and 22 from Kawhi Leonard.
The Raptors allowed an 11-point lead, at 100-89, to slip away in the final 6 minutes of the game. Both teams ended regulation tied at 110. The Raptors outscored the Thunder 13-4 in the overtime period to secure the win. The Thunder got a double-double out of Russell Westbrook with 42 points and 11 rebounds. However, his teammates were mostly quiet with Paul George scoring 19 points but also fouling out and Dennis Schroder scoring 12 points. Kyle Lowry, who hurt his ankle in a victory against the Knicks, was not in the lineup Wednesday night for the Raptors.
These two teams will face each other again in a contest on Friday, March 22nd, 2019 and this time the game will be played in Toronto. The Toronto Raptors are now 51-21 and sit second in the Eastern Conference. They are now on a 2-game winning streak and have a strong 29-7 home record.
The Thunder are 8th best in the Western Conference at the moment and are momentarily tied with the Spurs and Clippers at 7 games back of the first-placed Warriors with a record of 42-30. The Thunder are 19-18 on the road and are currently on a 4-game losing streak. The Thunder have 10 games to play and are 7 games ahead of the Sacramento Kings, who are in 9th place with 12 games.
It would take an extended losing streak for the Thunder and an extended winning streak for the Kings for the Thunder to miss the playoffs. It's unclear if Kyle Lowry, who is averaging 14.8ppg and 9 assists in 57 games, will be in the Raptors’ lineup on Friday night.
Oklahoma City Thunder Starters:
The Thunder will likely start Friday night with G-Russell Westbrook, G-Terrence Ferguson, F-Jerami Grant, F-Paul George, and C-Steven Adams.
Toronto Raptors Starters:
The Raptors will likely start G-Fred Vanvleet, G-Danny Green, F-Kawhi Leonard, F-Pascal Siakam and C-Marc Gasol.
Expectations, Why and Prediction:
The OKC Thunder are sputtering down the stretch of this season but have a 7-game lead on the Kings for the final playoff spot in the West. They may not be feeling any urgency to push for a higher ranking in the standings except if they don’t leapfrog the Clippers or Spurs, they may be facing the Warriors in the first round of the playoffs.
One interesting stat line from Wednesday night’s match with Toronto is the play of the centers. Steven Adams had 4 points and 7 rebounds and Marc Gasol had 10 points and 6 rebounds. Steven Adams averages 14.1ppg and 9.6rpg. Gasol, who came to Toronto in a trade deadline deal, is averaging just 9.6ppg and 6.8 rebounds in a Raptors uniform.
Steven Adams is the determined starter for the Thunder and Gasol has mostly been coming off of the bench. However, on Wednesday night both centers started and played a combined 70 minutes. It will be interesting to see if both centers can contribute more on Friday night to their team’s cause.
The Thunder won the battle of the benches on Wednesday night. The Thunder’s bench outscored the Raptors’ bench 32-18. The Raptors will need better bench production on Friday night. The Raptors had a dominant bench last season. However, with Pascal Siakam securing a starter's role this season, VanVleet struggling with his 3-point shooting (he shot 41% from three last year vs. 37% this year) and suffering nagging injuries, the Raptors bench has been inconsistent.
It also hasn’t helped that Delon Wright, C.J. Miles, Jonas Valanciunas, Greg Monroe and Lorenzo Brown have all been removed from the Raptors supporting cast. Further, with Kyle Lowry’s back issues this season, VanVleet has had to start in his place. It has been a chaotic unstable season for the Raptors bench. However, the team is 51-21 but bench production will be a significant flaw moving into the playoffs.
The Raptors and Thunder are both heading in opposite directions as this season winds down. Both are apparently playoff-bound but the Raptors' ranking gives them more control over their eventual fate. The Thunder are facing a tough first round hurdle if they don’t turn around their current play. Expect the Raptors to get better bench production on Friday night and to defend home court as they continue to pursue the Milwaukee Bucks. The Raptors will also not want to cough up a lead again. The Raptors should win this game by 5 points.