Toronto Raptors look to storm past Thunder: 3 keys to victory


The Toronto Raptors are riding their very first 4-0 start to a season in franchise history. They will try their best to sustain their success against the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight. The Raptors new offensive and defensive schemes appear to be working much better these days. Or you can thank the heroics of Kyle Lowry, who has started the season sensationally.

Last night, the Toronto Raptors handled the Dallas Mavericks in the fourth quarter by bruising them beyond their point of comfort. Lowry hit his fair share of big shots and Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle stated, “[The Raptors] turned it into a boxing match, and we needed to have it to be a basketball game.”

Nov 3, 2015; Dallas, TX, USA; Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (7) steals the ball from the Dallas Mavericks and pushes referee Derek Richardson (63) out of the way as he runs back up the court during the second half at the American Airlines Center. The Raptors defeat the Mavericks 102-91. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Raptors have changed their persona so far this year; they are now tough, scrappy and defensive-minded. The 5th ranked defensive team will need to bring it at a full and consistent level if they are going to beat one of best in the west.

Three keys to the game

Stopping the ball

The OKC Thunder have the second best offence this young season (having two of the best players in the league would do that) and in order to slow that down to some level, there needs to be emphasis on stopping Russell Westbrook from leaking out for easy buckets.

The Raptors will have their best ball stoppers on Westbrook, but there is very little you can do to slow that train down. The team as a whole will have to limit their turnovers, grab long rebounds and get back on defence if they want to slow down their high octane attack.

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Don’t let the role players heat up

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are two of the top three leading scorers in the league, only behind Stephen Curry. It is safe to say that these guys will get their shots up and get their points. The last thing you want to see is Serge Ibaka score 20 points, or even Dion Waiters score more than 10.

The Raptors best defenders (DeMarre Carroll, Kyle Lowry, Cory Joseph) will have their hands full with the dynamic duo, so it will be up to the role defenders on the Raptors to slow down Ibaka, Waiters, Kyle Singler, Anthony Morrow et al.

Offensive Efficiency

The Raptors have had some successes running more of a motion offence to begin the season, now ranking 9th in the early going. They have one of the faster paces in the league (7th) and better true shooting percentages (6th). The problem lies in their turnovers, one of the worst in the league this season at coughing up the ball. The Raptors rank 26th in the league in turnover percentage. They turn the ball over at an ugly 16.3% of their possessions.

In order to stop the potent Thunder attack, there will need to be more careful with the ball. Giving away easy points will not get a team far against one of the league’s true title contenders.

Next: Raptors player grades - Week 1

To say the Raptors are underdogs would be an understatement, but they are quite used to it. It should be a great game against their best opponent so far in the young season.