The 2020-21 NBA season continues with an out-of-conference clash as the slumping OKC Thunder lock horns with the gritty Toronto Raptors at Amalie Arena on Sunday. The two sides will meet for the second time this campaign.
Heading into this fixture, the OKC Thunder will bring with them a nine-game losing streak. Mark Daigneault's side have a 20-36 record, resting in 13th place in the West. Meanwhile, the Toronto Raptors are making a push for the Play-in tournament. Nick Nurse's men have won two games in a row ahead of this contest. The 2019 NBA champs are in 12th spot in the East with a 23-34 record behind them.
Fixture: OKC Thunder vs. Toronto Raptors Prediction - NBA Season 2020-21
Date & Time: Sunday, April 18th, 2021, 7:00 PM ET. (Monday 4:30 AM IST)
Venue: Amalie Arena, Tampa, FL
OKC Thunder Preview
Svi Mykhailiuk recorded 22 points as he led the OKC Thunder past the Raptors for a 113-103 victory in their first matchup of the season earlier this month. However, the team has been slumping ever since as they head towards the NBA lottery. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander's absence has left them severely depleted in a talent-rich Western Conference.
The OKC Thunder are coming off a loss to the Detroit Pistons in their previous matchup. The Thunder struggled from the field, shooting a sub-par 40% as a unit en route to their 36th loss of the campaign.
On a positive note, Luguentz Dort continues to raise his ceiling with power-packed performances this season. Playing against the Pistons, Dort tallied a team-high 26 points, six rebounds and two assists in 32 minutes for the OKC Thunder.
Key Player - Luguentz Dort
Luguentz Dort put the league on notice with a rousing 42 point performance against the Utah Jazz recently. The 6-foot-3 guard has made a reputation for himself as an elite defender. Dort has also displayed his explosive abilities on the offensive end of the hardwood. The OKC Thunder have a star in the making with Dort playing the way he is.
The sophomore has played 44 games this season, averaging 13.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 29.5 minutes per game. The OKC Thunder guard is shooting 39.8% from the floor and 34.3% from beyond the arc while also averaging one steal per contest.
OKC Thunder Predicted Lineup
Point Guard - Theo Maledon l Shooting Guard - Luguentz Dort l Small Forward - Darius Bazley l Power Forward - Isaiah Roby l Center - Moses Brown
Toronto Raptors Preview
Winning two consecutive games ahead of this contest, the Toronto Raptors will enter this matchup with their eyes set on a Play-in Tournament spot. Nick Nurse's men are chasing the Wizards, who are in 11th place in the East at the moment.
After beating the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday, the Toronto Raptors defeated the Orlando Magic on Friday with a 113-102 decision in their favor. Paul Watson displayed a game-winning presentation with a 30 point outing in only 26 minutes from the floor. He received ample support from Yuta Watanabe, who dropped 21 points and six rebounds in 27 minutes as the duo helped their side to back-to-back wins.
The Toronto Raptors have listed Gary Trent Jr. and Jalen Harris in the injury report. Both players have been ruled out for Sunday's contest. Meanwhile, Fred VanVleet is being monitored on a day-to-day basis by the coaching staff. Nevertheless, there is a high probability he could lace up for this matchup before tip-off.
Key Player - Fred VanVleet
Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet made his comeback to the NBA hardwood after missing quite a few of the Raptors' games this month. Playing only 23 minutes against the Magic, VanVleet registered six points and as many assists in 23 minutes of action. With the race for the Play-in tournament heating up, the fifth-year guard will need to deliver the goods the rest of the way.
Playing 45 games for the Toronto Raptors this season, VanVleet is averaging 19.5 points per game on a 39.1% shooting display from the floor. In addition to his scoring, the 2019 NBA champ is also adding 6.1 assists and 4.2 rebounds per contest.
Toronto Raptors Predicted Lineup
Point Guard - Malachi Flynn l Shooting Guard - Fred VanVleet l Small Forward - Paul Watson l Power Forward - Khem Birch l Center - Chris Boucher
Thunder vs. Raptors Match Prediction
The OKC Thunder need to be in full tank mode for the upcoming NBA Draft. Going on a winning streak at this stage of the season won't amount to much for them as they are out of the playoff picture.
Meanwhile, the Toronto Raptors need to win this matchup to keep winning for a chance at the Play-in tournament. That should serve as ample motivation for them to bring their A-game to the Amalie Arena tonight. On that note, we predict the Toronto Raptors will win this tie.
Where to watch Thunder vs. Raptors?
The game between the OKC Thunder and the Toronto Raptors will be telecast on Sportsnet (Raptors) and Bally Sports Oklahoma. Fans can also live stream the game via the NBA League Pass.