Thunder look to remain on roll at Toronto

NBA Basketball
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The Oklahoma City Thunder will be seeking their 11th win in 15 games — and sixth in seven games — when they visit the Toronto Raptors on Sunday.

The Thunder are coming off a 104-102 overtime win over the host Charlotte Hornets on Friday.

They had Saturday off as the Raptors were on the road against the Boston Celtics and earned a 113-97 victory, led by Kyle Lowry’s 30 points. The Raptors had lost two in a row, including a Christmas Day game against the Celtics.

The Raptors have three key players out with injuries — Pascal Siakam (groin), Marc Gasol (hamstring) and Norman Powell (shoulder) — meaning usual reserves like Patrick McCaw and Serge Ibaka have been starting. McCaw had a season-best 18 points, a season-best eight assists and grabbed seven rebounds Saturday, and Ibaka had 20 points and 10 rebounds.

The Thunder have had consistent production from their bench, which has outscored the opposing team’s bench in 24 of 31 games this season led by point guard Dennis Schroder. They are 14-10 in those games.

The latest example was the game Friday when the Thunder’s bench outscored the Hornets’ bench 47-26.

“We’ve got one of the best benches in the league, obviously,” said Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who had 27 points Friday. “We’re not ourselves without them. They provide another punch. And a lot of teams come in with their bench, and they’re weaker than the starting five. And that’s not the case for us.”

That bench production could drop off in Toronto, as the Thunder listed Schroder as out for Sunday because of a sore right ankle.

He was listed as questionable Friday because of the ankle but played 35 minutes and scored 24 points. It was his fifth consecutive 20-point game, a team record for a player coming off the bench.

Schroder has scored 15 or more points as a reserve in 14 straight games, the longest such streak in Thunder history.

“Dennis, man, (he’s) a trouper,” Thunder guard Chris Paul said. “You saw early in the game he was limping. Then he just turned it on.”

The Thunder have won four in a row and seven of their past 10 games in Toronto.

With all the injuries, Raptors coach Nick Nurse wants others to increase their contribution to the offense.

“We have to get some of these other guys — OG (Anunoby), Pat McCaw, Rondae (Hollis-Jefferson), Terence (Davis) — to play a little bit more involved in the offense,” Nurse said before the game at Boston.

McCaw answered that request Saturday, shooting 8-for-12 from the field and becoming the primary ball handler while playing 42 minutes. It gave more freedom to Lowry and Fred VanVleet, who scored 18 points.

“It gives us a lot more space and freedom to execute what we want to do,” Lowry said. “It opens the floor up a lot more and gives us a chance to attack downhill.”

Nurse said the Raptors made adjustments after the home loss to the Celtics on Christmas Day.

“I think we did a better job of not giving them so many wide-open shots, honestly,” Nurse said. “We changed a lot of our coverages obviously tonight, to get up and try to force them to make the extra pass and fly out from there.”

–Field Level Media

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