When the Oklahoma City Thunder visit the Toronto Raptors at Tampa, Fla., on Sunday night, the Thunder will be playing the last team they defeated before going on a nine-game losing streak.
That 113-103 win by the host Thunder on March 31 concluded a 1-13 March for the Raptors. Since then, while the Thunder have done nothing but lose, the Raptors have won five of nine.
The Thunder do have one streak in their favor. They have won five straight road games against the Raptors. Toronto last won a home game against the Thunder on Nov. 4, 2014.
The Raptors’ 113-102 victory over the visiting Orlando Magic on Friday was accomplished despite the absence of several key players.
Paul Watson Jr., starting for the first time in his NBA career, took advantage of the opportunity to score a career-best 30 points, including 20 in the third quarter. The Magic scored 19 in that quarter.
Yuta Watanabe also had a career best with 21 points off the bench.
Watson missed 11 games from March 26 to April 13 because of COVID-19 protocols that he said included “three or four. … really tough days.”
Absent for the Raptors on Friday were Kyle Lowry (toe), OG Anunoby (knee swelling), Pascal Siakam (rest), Gary Trent Jr. (ankle) and Jalen Harris (hip).
The absences brought out the best from those who played.
“You can see the way they’re playing hard and together; you can see the guys on the bench,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “There’s a really good team thing going on here right now, and it is fun.”
One Raptors’ regular starter who did play was Fred VanVleet (hip flexor), who had missed the previous seven games. He scored six points. VanVleet was 0-for-6 on 3-pointers, ending his club-record run of 76 games in which he made at least one shot from beyond the arc.
The Raptors have used their 26th different starting lineup of the season, the second-most in franchise history. The inaugural Raptors used 28 lineups in 1995-96, and three other seasons there have been 25 used.
“It’s pretty much a night-before-day-of-the-game (situation),” Nurse said. “Sometimes an hour before the game I know who’s available. “So it’s who’s there. We’re going to get them to play hard and play the right way and guard, and next-action (offensive) basketball and all that stuff. That’s it.”
The Thunder lost 110-104 to the host Detroit Pistons on Friday night. Luguentz Dort led the Thunder with 26 points — 12 in the fourth quarter.
“From start to where he is now, just to see all the growth he’s made, quality achievements he has done, he breaks through every barrier,” said Thunder forward Darius Bazley, who had 19 points and seven rebounds. “He gets over any hurdle.”
“The stretch in the fourth when the game was starting to slip away from us, we kind of pumped it to him a little bit, and he kind of stabilized things for us,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said.
Dort leads NBA players in offensive fouls drawn with 43 this season, ahead of Lowry, who has 36.
The Thunder were without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (foot injury), Josh Hall (knee), Mike Muscala (ankle) and Aleksej Pokusevski (arm) on Friday.
–Field Level Media