Toronto at Oklahoma City
Time: 8:30 PM CT (ESPN)
Spread: OKC -5
Odds c/o 5dimes
Oklahoma City has been rolling, and its plan of attack is slightly different, so perhaps that is why. Russell Westbrook, while still a dominant force in all aspects of the game, has shifted the primary scoring responsibilities to swingman Paul George. George has thrived, although OKC has now lost three straight games.
Over his last 10 games, he is averaging 26 points per game while shooting just 37 percent from the floor and 33 percent from three. He has cooled off a lot since a red-hot February.
Westbrook is averaging 1.5 points per game less than his career average, but he is averaging 2.8 assists more per game than his career average of 8.3 per contest. He has had a triple-double in seven straight games, and the Thunder have won all but one of those games. It seems that OKC has stumbled across its secret to success this season, but it unclear whether this methodology will be anywhere enough to defeat the vaunted Golden State Warriors when the playoffs roll around.
The only thing that is certain, is that the chances are better than ever for this OKC team. Westbrook and George are both tops at their position, and the OKC defense has been suffocating. This could finally be the year that Westbrook experiences some postseason success to pad his Hall of Fame resume after averaging a triple-double for three consecutive seasons. The emergence of George into a true superstar is what has driven it, but Westbrook is the heart and soul of the Thunder.
Toronto now becomes a very scary team on paper with its addition of Marc Gasol. The Raptors will have a three-man rotation at the 4/5 spots featuring Serge Ibaka, Pascal Siakem and Gasol. Additionally, OG Anunoby moonlights at the 4-spot, and Greg Monroe adds further depth. The Raptors are now filling out a top-flight rotation that can absolutely win the Eastern Conference, particularly with its perpetual thorn-in-the-side of LeBron James taking his talents out westward to L.A.
No matter what the Raptors do with Gasol, finding time for Siakem will remain a priority. He is making a run for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award this season, averaging 15.4 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.5 blocks/steals per game. Over his last five games, Siakem has tallied 19 points and six boards and the Raptors have won three of those contests. His athleticism and feel for the game are undeniable, and he has become a crucial part of the Raptors attack.
Over the course of the season, Siakem is shooting 55.7 percent from the field on 10.8 field goal attempts per game and absolutely is a key part of what Toronto is doing moving forward. It is unsurprising he was left out of the Gasol trade, as he was at one point becoming the centerpiece in the Raptors offer for Anthony Davis.
While he’s obviously not on Davis’ level, Siakem looks to be a power forward any team could build around and his value to Toronto is immense both on the court and in potential trade markets.
The biggest difference maker, though, of course, has been Kawhi Leonard. Though many at the time felt the move of trading DeMar DeRozan for Leonard was nearly “lateral,” it has been anything but. Leonard brings a true lockdown defensive presence in addition to his scoring and is arguably the best “two-way” player in the Association. Leonard is averaging 27.3 points, 7.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.4 blocks/steals per game this season. In the Raptors most recent win over the Philadelphia 76ers, he came up with three steals, three assists, seven rebounds, and 24 points despite shooting just 3 of 11 from the field.
Leonard got to the line to knock down 16 of 17, showing that he can be a major force offensively even while his field goals are not falling. He is a transcendental talent, and between Leonard, Siakem, and Gasol, the Raptors now have one of the best starting frontcourts in the league. Serge Ibaka will likely come in to spell both Siakem and Gasol off the bench, and he is now one of the best frontcourt reserves in the league with that likely “demotion.”