The Oklahoma City Thunder have started to click and aim to extend their season-best winning streak to six games when they host the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday. Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony are more comfortable with each other and the club is a stellar 11-3 in December.
The Thunder recorded a solid 112-107 home win over the Houston Rockets on Christmas Day in the latest example that the “Big Three” is now on the same page. “There’s no confusion,” George said after Monday’s victory. “We’re just playing. We trust one another. We’re on the same page with one another. We just figured it out, how to close, how to play well, how to tighten up. We’re just comfortable, I think. That’s what took a little time, is the comfort level.” Toronto has been playing superb but saw a six-game winning streak halted with Tuesday’s 98-93 road loss against the Dallas Mavericks. “None of us came out in the right disposition, ready to compete,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey told reporters after the loss. “Any time you shoot 33 percent you’re not going to beat too many people in the league.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBATV, Sportsnet One (Toronto), FSN Oklahoma
ABOUT THE RAPTORS (23-9): Star shooting guard DeMar DeRozan had a horrific performance against the Mavericks immediately after being named Eastern Conference Player of the Week. DeRozan struggled with the defense of Wesley Matthews and had just eight points on 3-of-16 shooting after being red-hot with a 31.8 average over the previous six games. “A lot of shots I took that were in the paint, normally shots that I make,” DeRozan told reporters of his poor showing. “Missed a lot of floaters, easy things. One of them nights.”
ABOUT THE THUNDER (19-15): Westbrook (31), George (24) and Anthony (20) combined for 75 points in the win over the Rockets with Anthony being the most efficient by making 8-of-12 shots. George (20.1 average) has settled into the No. 2 scoring role behind reigning MVP Westbrook (averages of 23.9 points, 9.9 assists and 9.4 rebounds) while Anthony (17.5) has accepted being the third option after playing the lead scoring role in each of his first 15 NBA seasons. “I think we know how to put the ball in the hole,” Anthony told reporters. “We’ve been doing that for a long time. I think now it’s just being comfortable. We’re doing that, being confident when our time comes.”
1. The teams split two meetings last season with Westbrook averaging 30 points for the Thunder and DeRozan averaging 29.5 for the Raptors.
2. Toronto PF Serge Ibaka, a former Thunder starter, has scored in double digits in each of his past 11 games.
3. Oklahoma City SG Andre Roberson (dislocated left ring finger) was injured against the Rockets but practiced Tuesday and is slated to play against the Raptors.
PREDICTION: Thunder 113, Raptors 111