OKC Thunder vs Raptors part deux serves up healthier rosters – preview

DECEMBER 29: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the OKC Thunder dribbles the ball as Kyle Lowry #7 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
DECEMBER 29: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the OKC Thunder dribbles the ball as Kyle Lowry #7 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /
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OKC Thunder
Steven Adams #12 of the OKC Thunder and Serge Ibaka #9 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Anatoliy Cherkasov/NurPhoto via Getty Images) /

The defending champs arrive to play the OKC Thunder with revenge on their minds after a one-point loss 17 days ago. Gameday previews the match.

As the Toronto Raptors prepare to play the OKC Thunder they have revenge on their minds. After leading for most of the game on December 29th, the defending champs succumbed to the Thunder clutch time crew who’ve mastered stealing victories from teams thinking the match was in the bag.

The timing of this second game between the clubs is intriguing given Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was incredible in the first game, tying his career-high (32 points) and scoring the bucket that sealed the deal. Plus, he’s coming off his history setting triple-double performance in Minnesota.

Although SGA isn’t the most demonstrative competitor he has that killer instinct and if you pay attention you’ll spot a look in his eyes or determined facial expression in those moments that matter.

Nurse’s vested interest in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander:

For Raptors Head Coach, Nick Nurse this match offers intrigue beyond the typical opponent. Nurse took over as the Canadian National coach last summer. SGA and his cousin Nickeil Alexander-Walker will be spending ample time with Nurse this offseason. The cousins and a slew of other Canadians in the NBA  have committed to participating in the Olympic wild card tournament with Victoria, British Columbia, Canada playing host.

Should the Canadians win they’ll gain entry to the Olympics. Like the American team, the Canucks could feature a roster made up entirely of NBA talents. Although there is a myriad of guards (Jamal Murray, NWA, Cory Joseph, and more) it’s a pretty safe bet SGA owns a starting spot. Especially after his performance against fellow Canadian, Andrew Wiggins, who consequently is the only star who hasn’t confirmed his intention to participate in the tournament.

Huge roster changes for second meeting:

The teams who line up on both sides of the hardwood for this second offering will look extremely different than those who played in the 6ix. The OKC Thunder were missing Danilo Gallinari and Dennis Schroder who were both out nursing sore ankles as well as Hamidou Diallo who was still mending from his hyperextended elbow.

All will be available for this game but Nerlens Noel will miss his sixth consecutive game and Abdel Nader will also be out after spraining his ankle versus the Wolves.

As for the Raptors they’ve battled injury issues all season missing a minimum of one starter since Game 7 of the season. In the December 29th match, their best player Pascal Siakam (groin) was out, as was starter Marc Gasol (hamstring), top reserve Norman Powell (shoulder) and 3-point sniper Matt Thomas.

Siakam and Powell made their return to the lineup in the last game, Thomas returned three games ago and Marc Gasol is listed as probable to make his return for this game. But, like the entire season has gone for Toronto now Fred VanVleet is out and will miss his fourth consecutive game with a hamstring injury.

The bottom line is the lineups have changed so much it’s almost like preparing for an entirely different team. With that let’s dive into the keys for the Thunder to net the victory.