Thunder 119, Raptors 99
News, notes and observations from Sunday’s 119-99 win over Toronto…
- The Thunder’s defense is to be commended even if the Raptors played without Chris Bosh. Toronto still has plenty of weapons in Jose Calderon, Jarrett Jack, Andrea Bargnani and Hedo Turkoglu, but OKC held the Raptors to 43 percent shooting and 6-for-15 from beyond the 3-point arc.
- I thought the Thunder set the tone early by scoring in transition and off of the Raptors’ turnovers. Oklahoma City’s 12 points off Toronto’s five first-quarter turnovers were huge. It became the theme of the evening, as the Thunder scored 29 points off 18 Toronto turnovers.
- That explains how the Thunder shot 51.8 percent.
- OKC had 12 steals, seven blocked shots and held the Raptors to 15 assists and forced them into 18 turnovers, all numbers that show how the Thunder is getting after it defensively.
- The Thunder lead by as many as 28 points.
- Because of the blowout, Kevin Durant needed to play only 32 minutes, tied for his second lowest of the season. It was a much-needed break after Durant played 40 minutes or more in five of the previous six games.
- When Raptors rookie DeMar DeRozan came out checking Durant, I thought KD was about to go off for 50.
- Instead, Durant just posterized DeRozan early on a fast break. It was nice for two reasons. 1) It’s always fun to see someone get dunked on. 2) Durant actually finished the break this time, throwing it down rather than getting stuffed or stripped like he has so many times this season in similar situations.
- DeRozan’s improvisation moments later was not too shabby either. When a teammate airballed a layup attempt, DeRozan came out of nowhere, grabbed the ball in mid-air and threw down a one-handed dunk. Strangely, the play has the goods (and the ugliness) to make SportsCenter’s top 10 plays and its not top 10 plays.
- Since I seem to be on dunks, Jeff Green’s driving, one-handed flush in the first half, and Byron Mullens’ one-handed throw down off James Harden’s lob pass, are both worth revisiting. Just a lot of good drives to the rim tonight.
- After getting off to a slow start this season, the Thunder’s offense has come along nicely. The Thunder has now scored at least 102 points in 10 of the past 13 games. OKC shot 51 percent or better in five of those games.
- What could be one of the overlooked positives from this one was the Thunder’s ball movement. The Thunder had 23 assists and moved the ball around the perimeter and inside to cutters all night. This team’s unselfishness has always been impressive, but we’re starting to see all five players on the court understand where each other is and how to make the right play, be it a pick or a pass, to get the right man the ball at the right time. It’s fun to watch and is fundamental basketball at its finest.
- OKC didn’t have a single turnover in the game’s first 19 minutes. Then the Thunder gave it away four times in the final 4 minutes, 36 seconds of the second quarter. The stretch didn’t dent the Thunder’s lead, but it went a long way in preventing the team from matching or besting its season-low seven turnovers.
- Russell Westbrook: 14 points, 10 assists, four steals, three rebounds, one blocked shot, zero turnovers. And this has become an average night for him.
- The play that summed up Westbrook’s development this year was a 1-on-2 break in the second quarter. The second Raptors defender was about even with Westbrook, and the second-year guard had a chance to attack the basket and challenge the lone defender between him and the rim. Instead, Westbrook calmly dribbled it back out and waited for his troops. Last year that would have been a turnover or a bad shot, which is just as bad as a turnover. Now, Westbrook is patient and protective of the rock.
- The way Westbrook found his teammates all night made me post on Twitter during the game that he has officially figured out that he can score whenever he wants and with that realization he is now more willing to be a passer early. I don’t think Westbrook has arrived in this area yet, because he still has a tendency to get carried away late in games and have it adversely affect his team (See the fourth quarter of the most recent San Antonio game). But Westbrook’s game management and his ability to pick and choose his spots is growing more and more each game.
- Serge Ibaka is quickly becoming a force. He already is with his rebounding, and now he’s starting to contribute with his scoring. Tonight was his second career double-double and the second time this season he’s finished in double digit scoring in two straight games. For Monday’s editions of The Oklahoman, I wrote about whether he can become the low-post scoring threat that many think the Thunder needs before serious title contention. But Thunder coach Scott Brooks said, for now, he just wants his big man to focus on rebounding, blocking shots, defending, running the floor and getting open on screen and rolls.
- With 16 points, Nenad Krstic had his best scoring game since Jan. 18 then left the game midway through the third quarter with an ankle injury. A team spokesman said the ankle is not serious, but Krstic banged his injured right thumb again tonight and that could become a more significant setback.
- This was the 17th sellout of the season for the Thunder. Kudos to Thunder fans for their season-long support.
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