April 8, 2012; Oklahoma City OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard James Harden (13) goes to the basket against Toronto Raptors center Aaron Gray (34), Toronto Raptors power forward Ed Davis (32), and Toronto Raptors point guard Jose Calderon (8) during the fourth quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena Mandatory Credit: Richard Rowe-US PRESSWIRE

Oklahoma City Thunder 2012-13 Preview: Toronto Raptors

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Thunderous Intentions will begin to preview the 2012-13 NBA season by going through every team in the league and breaking down how they match up with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Be sure to check out the previous matchups we have previewed: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Hornets, New York Knicks, Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs.

Richard Rowe-US PRESSWIRE

Toronto Raptors Team Overview

The Raptors finished 23-43 last season, 12 spots out of playoff contention in the East. They are a young team working to put the right pieces together and it looks like they are headed in the right direction.

This offseason they traded for Kyle Lowry after they did everything possible to get Steve Nash and it backfired in the form of a hefty contract for Landry Fields. They picked Terrence Ross with the No. 8 pick in the 2012 Draft and their lottery selection from 2011, Jonas Valanciunas, will also be coming over next season.

We are still waiting on DeMar DeRozan to take the jump and become a star. We know what Andrea Bargnani is now, probably not worthy of the No. 1 overall pick but a solid player nonetheless when healthy.

Their new head coach last season Duane Casey has changed the culture in Toronto in his short time with t team making them better defensively. The Raptors still have a long way to go but we should expect them to be more competitive next season.

Last year

The Oklahoma City Thunder played the Raptors once last season on April 8 in OKC and beat them 91-75. The Thunder went on a 24-0 run at one point in the game and easily cruised to the victory.

Kevin Durant had 23 points and Russell Westbrook had 15. James Harden chipped in with 17 off the bench.

The Thunder didn’t play great shooting just 41.7 percent from the field but they held the Raptors to 37.2 percent shooting. OKC blocked 11 shots in the game with Serge Ibaka leading the way swatting five himself.

The matchup

The Raptors were ranked just 24th in the league in overall offense last season in terms of points per possession. Toronto was ranked 6th on isolation plays and was solid in the pick-and-roll as well at 16th.

Their defense was improved last season but still just 16th best overall. They were second to last vs. isolation plays which is not a good formula to slow down the OKC offense. They were 2nd best vs. spot-up plays and 17th vs. the pick-and-roll.

You wouldn’t expect the Raptors to really be on the same level as the Thunder but they did a solid job defensively limiting OKC in their one meeting last season.

Next year

If the Raptors can stay healthy, they could make some noise in the East. They will be a surprise team for sure very capable of sneaking up on a team like the Thunder who will likely be cruising to a lot of easy victories during the regular season.

Lowry was nearly an All-Star last season in the West and now that he is in the East, could very well become one this season. If the defense stays sharp and Lowry looks like he did last season, there will be a noticeable improvement from this team.

The Thunder play Toronto twice next season first on Nov. 6 in OKC and then in Toronto on Jan. 6. No one will expect the Thunder to lose any of those meetings but better things are still on the horizon for the Raptors.

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