2012-2013 Game 33 Preview: Thunder Embark on the Road, See Raptors

Possibly one of the greatest dunk faces ever. - Shane Bevel

Today the Thunder face the Raptors, who have gone 8-2 over their last 10 games. The key ingredient to this win streak? Unsurprisingly, it's the departure of Andrea Bargnani.

2012-2013 NBA Season
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The Oklahoma City Thunder (25-7)
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The Toronto Raptors (12-21)
January 6th, 2013
The Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
12:00 PM CST
Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, The Score Television Network
WWLS the Sports Animal (98.1), SportsNet 590 The FAN
Enemy Blogs: Raptors HQ, Raptors Republic, Raptorblog
Previous Meetings: Nov 6th (Thunder Lead Season Series 1-0)
Probable Starters
Russell Westbrook PG Jose Calderon (Kyle Lowry?)
Thabo Sefolosha SG DeMar DeRozan
Kevin Durant SF Mickael Pietrus (Really Terrence Ross or Alan Anderson)
Serge Ibaka PF Ed Davis
Kendrick Perkins C Aaron Gray (Really Amir Johnson)

Road trips are pretty brutal. I've taken many a trip in my time, more often unprepared than not. But what's even more brutal is when the sun rises. The car gets hot, light is shining in your eyes, you start falling asleep, and utter despair sinks in.

But the start time of this game is even worse than that road trip sunrise. For me, 12:00 is far too early in the day for basketball. Seriously, who schedules basketball at noon? People with real jobs and families? Pshh. There's a reason I'm not a golf or bass fishing fan!

Anyway, today the Thunder face the Raptors, who have gone 8-2 over their last 10 games. The key ingredient to this win streak? Unsurprisingly, it's the departure of Andrea Bargnani. His shooting percentages have hit the crapper this season, and when he has nothing to offer on offense, he has nothing to offer at all. His defense is atrocious, and he rebounds like somebody six inches shorter than he is. The Raptors have the tools to be successful on offense without him, and the added defense and rebounding of replacement Ed Davis has helped the team tremendously.

So, just how good are these new Raptors? Well, they've had a really easy schedule as of late, with their most impressive wins probably coming over the slumping Rockets or benchless Trail Blazers. They were basically blown out by San Antonio and soundly beaten by the Kings, so it's fair to say that they've still got a long road ahead of them if they want to make noise this season.

Still, it's really hard to say exactly how good they are, because the Raptors have been haunted by injuries, and their team is like a revolving door of players. Their two losses came without young center Jonas Valanciunas, who will be out for at least a month with a broken ring finger. Kyle Lowry recently re-entered the lineup after his second injury of the season, but his minutes are being limited while he recovers. Linas Kleiza, a reliable bench scorer, has missed a few games recently and is questionable for tonight. It's fair to say that a complete team would be pretty lean and mean, but whether that fantasy will ever become a reality is totally up in the air.

Overall, the Raptors are a team that really struggles with field goal percentage, because outside of DeMar DeRozan, they have no consistent source of offense. Lowry could be that man, but he doesn't play half of the time. Alan Anderson's offense is really spotty, Jose Calderon is maddeningly inconsistent, and nobody else really provides enough of a factor to make up for those holes. The best way to beat the Raptors is to keep them off the line, don't try too hard for steals, and watch out for the hot hand. As long as the Thunder can do those three things, at least to some extent, they should be able to win this game pretty easily.

Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 109, Toronto Raptors 100.

If you are looking for tickets to upcoming games, you can find Oklahoma City Thunder tickets here.

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