The Toronto Raptors (12-21) are not the worst team in the NBA. They're not even in the bottom three.
This could be good news for the Thunder, which owns Toronto's first-round pick in the 2013 NBA Draft if it falls between Nos. 4-14.
Even with their 105-96 loss at home against Sacramento on Friday night, the Raptors have still won eight of their last 10 games, albeit it against weak competition. Toronto beat just two teams with winning records in that span, with home victories against Houston and Portland.
To their credit, the Raptors have succeeded despite injuries to multiple double-digit scorers: center Andrea Bargnani (16.0 ppg) has missed the last 12 games with an elbow injury; point guard Kyle Lowery (15.5 ppg; 6.0 assists; 5.1 rebounds) previously missed 13 games due to various injuries; guard Alan Anderson (11.1) has returned after previously missing 17 games.
The Thunder (25-7) plays the Raptors at noon Sunday at Air Canada Centre.
As part of the James Harden trade on Oct. 27, the Thunder acquired two protected first-round draft picks from Houston via the Rockets' previous dealings with Toronto and Dallas.
The first-round pick via Toronto is protected through the 2017 NBA Draft with the following parameters:
*In 2013, the selection is protected for Nos. 1-3 and 15-30, leaving Nos. 4-14 for OKC.
*In 2014 and 2015, the selection is protected for Nos. 1 and 2 and 15-30, leaving Nos. 3-14 for the Thunder.
*In 2016 and 2017, the selection is protected for the No. 1 pick and 15-30, leaving Nos. 2-15 for OKC.
*In 2018, the selection becomes unprotected, which means the Thunder will receive the Raptors' selection regardless of where it is if it hasn't already been awarded from 2013-17.
The first-round pick via Dallas is protected Nos. 1-20 in 2013, and unprotected in 2014.
OKC also received Charlotte's second-round pick in 2013, which is unprotected.
Philadelphia 76ers coach Doug Collins had a fearful free-throw forecast prior to Friday night's 109-85 loss to the Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“The key thing is can you keep them off the foul line?” said Collins, fearing the worst.
OKC had 20 more free-throw attempts (37-17) in its overtime road victory against the Sixers on Nov. 24 and had 19 more attempts (27-8) on Friday.
A sampling of Collins' pregame scouting report on the Thunder:
“Their combination of blocks and steals is 15 or so a game. That's when they get in the open court. (Kevin) Durant and (Russell) Westbrook are 3-4 in fast-break points in the league. Kevin Martin is No. 1 in free-throw shooting. Durant I think is No. 3. They're on pace to set a record for the best free-throw shooting team in the history of the NBA.
“A big part of what they do is that foul line, so can you play them without fouling? Can you move the ball against them and get some open shots? You've got to get back in transition, especially here at home. Great, great crowd here. A lot of energy.”
Guard Nick Young has burned the Thunder while playing for Washington and the Los Angeles Clippers, and Friday was more of the same as he finished with a team-high 21 points and went 5 for 7 from 3-point range.
In his career against OKC, Young is averaging 11.4 points in 21.9 minutes and shooting 40.9 percent from 3-point range. He averaged 16.3 points against the Thunder last season.
Young explained Friday's loss as follows: “They stayed in attack. They outrebounded us, made turnovers, forced turnovers and they just scored off our turnovers. We gave them too many second-chance shots, and you know that's the game. Once they get going, KD and Russell, that's going to leave (Serge) Ibaka open. It just trickles down.”
OKC leads the league in free-throw shooting at 84.3 percent. The NBA record is 83.2 percent by the 1989-90 Boston Celtics. The Thunder has led the league in free-throw percentage the last two seasons and was second in 2009-10. … OKC is 11-4 against Eastern Conference teams and 14-3 against the Western Conference. … The Thunder plays at Washington at 6 p.m. Monday, which will complete the team's seventh back-to-back this season. OKC is 4-2 on the first night, 5-1 on the second night and has three sweeps. The Thunder has 15 back-to-backs this season.
Thunder center Daniel Orton had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds Friday night in the Tulsa 66ers' home loss against Idaho. Rookies Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones each scored 12 points. Lamb had seven rebounds and Jones had five.
All five Thunder players who have been assigned to the 66ers this season are averaging double-digits in scoring — Reggie Jackson (28.0), Lamb (21.6), Jones (14.3), Orton (10.8) and DeAndre Liggins (10.2).
Durant on Ibaka finishing with a double-double of 15 points and 10 rebounds against the Sixers: “Now we expect it from him. When he has a double-double it's not like breaking news.”
Thunder at Raptors
When: Noon Sunday
Where: Air Canada Centre, Toronto
TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma (Cox 37/HD 722, DirecTV 679, Dish 441, U-Verse 754/HD 1754).
Radio: WWLS 98.1-FM, WWLS 640-AM
Three things to know
* Starting with its game against Toronto, the Thunder will play 11 of the next 13 on the road.
* This is the second and final meeting this season between Oklahoma City and Toronto. The Thunder won the first meeting, 108-88, on Nov. 6 inside Chesapeake Energy Arena.
* The Thunder did not play in Toronto last year due to the lockout shortening the season. In 2010-11, the Thunder suffered a 111-99 defeat against the Raptors inside the Air Canada Centre.