Oklahoma City Thunder (25-7) vs. Toronto Raptors (12-21)
Quick: who is the hottest team in the Eastern Conference?
In the last 10 games, at least, it is unbelievably the Toronto Raptors. The Raptors have gon 8-2 to put themselves somewhat back into the Playoff picture in the Eastern Conference. Their record probably shows you how far into the hole they were before going on this streak.
The two losses in the last 10 games for the Raptors were to the Spurs and to the Kings. Not exactly a sign of much for Toronto. So what has Toronto done well?
Defense has been key with Amir Johnson, Ed Davis and Alan Anderson — none known for their offensive play — have received big minutes for this team during this stretch. Andrea Bargnani, who is known more as a gunner and defensive sieve, has also missed pretty much this entire streak. Toronto is doing a lot of things right and getting some great play from Jose Calderon and DeMar DeRozan during this stretch.
Of course, past results are no guarantee for the future.
Oklahoma City is cruising along this season and they know that the ultimate goal is still far into the future. Does Toronto have what it takes to defend Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and keep this streak alive? Time to figure out how much momentum really counts.
Other Storylines to Watch
-The biggest change for the Thuunder this season has been the emergence of Serge Ibaka as an offensive weapon. He has been able to step out and hit jumpers this season which has added a ton to the Thunder's already impressive offensive arsenal. Even though Ibaka was upset this offseason with his role on the Spanish national team, he obviously put in a lot of work this season on the jumper. Ibaka is hitting 46.2 percent of his 119 shots from 16-23 feet. Big improvement for him.
-To get a sense of the plus/minus with Andrea Bargnani out of the lineup, the Raptors are 8-4 in games without Bargnani. It does not seem like Toronto could get rid of him faster at this point. Or maybe he could help the team out some with his shooting in more limited minutes.
Tonight's Other Games
Washington Wizards (4-27) vs. Miami Heat (22-9)
John Wall appears close to returning to the court for the Wizards. He has been going through some light practices and reports are that he expects to return within two weeks. Even if he is not a player to build around as Stan Van Gundy suggested, he will undoubtedly make this Washington team better in the immediate future.
Charlotte Bobcats (8-24) vs. Detroit Pistons (13-22)
The Pistons have been rising a bit of late. They are now 10th in the Eastern Conference and that front line is looking pretty good as Andre Drummond continues to come into his own. The mix of veterans with Charlie Villanueva getting some more playing time and Rodney Stuckey and Tayshaun Prince able to contribute still is helping this team find some moderate success.
Memphis Grizzlies (20-10) vs. Phoenix Suns (12-22)
The Grizzlies have reportedly been putting out feelers for Rudy Gay a bit more after struggling a bit recently. The Grizzlies window is certainly open and they like their burly frontcourt and need more consistency from perimeter. Rudy Gay is averaging 18.0 points per game (a low since his rookie year) and is shooting 40.9 percent from the floor this season.
Denver Nuggets (19-16) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (15-17)
Dwight Howard is the center of attention again. Questions about his free agent future are beginning to rise. Then there are questions about the health of his shoulder. He said he was in immense pain Saturday and his status for Sunday's game is in doubt. Then there was Howard calling into question the team's on-court chemistry and urging his team to become better friends on the court.