OKLAHOMA CITY — The Toronto Raptors have run through the Eastern Conference with a similar core and thus, a similar type of isolation-heavy offense over the past few years. But the Oklahoma City Thunder’s next opponent will look different than many fans might expect come Wednesday night.
Even with players like point guard Kyle Lowry and binge scorer DeMar DeRozan carrying over, the Raptors have implemented far more motion into their offense this year. They’re taking 36 percent fewer mid-range shots. And lately, DeRozan, who spent the first eight years of his career dominating on long 2s, has taken his success to the 3-point line. He’s hit 13 triples over the past three games.
It will be a special task for OKC defensive stopper Andre Roberson, who has guarded DeRozan well historically, but who will have to deal with a different type of player come Wednesday.
“We know he’s a big pump-fake guy, a great mid-range game and he expanded his three-ball this year. We have a good challenge on our hands,” Roberson said. “We just have to go out there and continue to do what we do on the defensive end, execute our game plan and our coverages and we’ll be fine.”
• Another accolade: Russell Westbrook has been named Western Conference Player of the Week for games from played Dec. 18 to 24.
He averaged 29.8 points, 9.0 rebounds and 9.5 steals while shooting 60 percent from the field over four games. The Thunder won each one of those.
This is the 16th time Westbrook has won Player of the Week. He garnered the award four times during his 2016-17 MVP campaign.
The four-game hot streak is part of a longer heated run from Westbrook, who has shot better than 50 percent from the field in five of his past six games. The one time he failed to reach that number, he shot 11 of 24.
He has averaged 29.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and 9.2 assists while shooting 57 percent from the field during the six-game streak. The Thunder’s only loss over that time was at the New York Knicks. It came on the second night of a back-to-back and followed a triple-overtime contest in Philadelphia.
• Franchise records: Westbrook didn’t just make news to begin this week because of his Player of the Week award. He also broke an under-the-radar record during Monday’s 112-107 win over the Houston Rockets: he is now the Oklahoma City Thunder’s all-time leading scorer, breaking current Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant’s former record.
The record does not include scoring from Durant’s rookie season, during which he was a member of the Seattle SuperSonics. The Sonics moved to Oklahoma the following summer and became the Thunder only weeks after drafting Westbrook.
Westbrook now has 15,967 career points, 25 more than Durant scored with OKC. He still, however, places third on the franchise’s all-time scoring list, behind Durant, who scored 17,566 points if you include his time in Seattle and Hall of Fame point guard Gary Payton, who scored 18,207 while playing for the Sonics from 1990 to 2003.
Fred Katz is the Thunder beat writer for the Norman Transcript and CNHI Oklahoma as well as the host of the postgame show, Thunder After Dark, and the OKC Dream Team, a weekly Thunder podcast that runs every Tuesday. Follow him on Twitter: @FredKatz.