News, notes and observations from Friday’s 115-89 win at Toronto…..
- How about that for bouncing back? There seemed to be a collective confidence surround the Thunder over the past two days following the collapse in Charlotte. It started in Thursday’s practice. And it carried over into Friday morning’s shootaround. By the time the game rolled around, the Thunder made like caged lions unleashed on a helpless pack of prey. The Raptors really never stood a chance.
- The most impressive, if not shocking, part of the blowout win is that the Thunder shot just 41.5 percent. The Thunder has won three games this season (Clippers and Golden State twice) despite shooting 42.2 percent. But Friday’s percentage was the lowest in a Thunder win this season. Of course that will happen when you play the all-around dominant game that OKC did against the Raptors. The Thunder held Toronto to 43.8 percent shooting, out-rebounded them 53-37, scored 24 points off their 19 turnovers, recorded 10 steals and seven blocked shots, raced to a 34-10 advantage in fast break points and finished with a 27-6 margin in second-chance points.
- That’s why Scott Brooks candidly called this one the “best game of the year.” Said Brooks: “That was about as good as we can possibly play.”
- Kevin Durant scored a game-high 31 points on 16 shots. And he made only seven field goals! KD got to the free throw line 18 times, making 17 to make this an easy night.
- Jeff Green is in a nice offensive rhythm right now. He had 25 points and took 10 3-pointers, making four of them. He had the hot hand in the second half, scoring 12 of his 25 in the third quarter. And to the Thunder’s credit, players made it a point to get him the ball and let him do his thing.
- The way the Thunder directed each other tonight was very impressive. On one possession in the first half, Durant cleared out from the left wing and all but demanded Russell Westbrook back down Jose Calderon. Westbrook backed down the Raptors point guard with a few dribbles, turned and hit a baseline jumper over Calderon and drew the foul. That kind of chemistry was on display all night.
- I also noticed a small difference in Thabo Sefolosha tonight that speaks to the Thunder’s chemistry. A few games ago, Sefolosha dribbled up the court on the break, ignoring Westbrook’s call for the ball. Sefolosha shot, missed and heard an earful from Westbrook after the sequence. Tonight, Sefolosha found his point guard on every run and filled the lane instead of playing playmaker. It led to good results.
- The Thunder had just two turnovers in the first half, helping it establish that 27-point lead at the break.
- Serge Ibaka was absolutely huge late in the first quarter and into the second quarter. He had just two points, five rebounds and two blocked shots for the game, but all of that came in about a 9 1/2-minute span. And a good portion of that 9 1/2 minutes was against All-Star Chris Bosh, who looked like he had no clue as to how to keep Ibaka off the glass. After tonight’s game, forget it, Thunder fans. Forget your fantasies for Bosh, David Lee, Carlos Boozer, Amare Stoudemire or even Greg Monroe. I did. And so should you. Forget them and focus your energy on demanding that the Thunder develops Ibaka. This kid has a bright, bright future.
- Kyle Weaver emerges! Season-high 12 points on 4-for-6 shooting with three steals and two blocked shots. He made a career-high four 3-pointers. Now if he can only duplicate that for the next one to three weeks while James Harden is out.
- On a sour note, tonight’s game made me question Weaver’s future with the Thunder for the first time. I’ve wondered in the past where he fits long term after the additions of Sefolosha, Harden and Eric Maynor. But this was different. Raptors wings Sonny Weems and DeMar DeRozan had a few plays tonight where they absolutely blew by Weaver. Now, those are two of the most athletic cats in the league. LeBron James would get beat off the dribble by at least DeRozan every so often. But what I’m wondering after tonight is whether Weaver has the athleticism to stick not only with the Thunder but in the league. Weaver is easy to root for because he’s a class act, and he’s smart as Einstein when it comes to basketball. But how much that athleticism will hinder him might be something to start keeping an eye on as the Thunder continues to build its roster.
- Jay Triano was all over the officials tonight. And of all the things he said, he got a technical for being past the coach’s line.
- After the game, a member of Toronto’s media asked Durant whether the Raptors are soft. Durant couldn’t help but let out a light laugh before answering (no obviously, what else is he going to say). But the Toronto media is now in all out attack mode on this team’s toughness, starting with Bosh. Not exactly the way to keep the guy in town, I don’t think.
- Speaking of toughness, Raptors fans are clearly hockey fans. They appreciate contact even in basketball. When a Raptors player raced down Durant on a break, fouling him with heavy contact to prevent the easy dunk, fans inside the Air Canada Centre let out their loudest roar of the night. But the ovation sounded like it had more to do with the hard foul and very little to do with preventing the basket.
- I’ll give Raptors fans credit for this — they stayed through this blowout longer than any other NBA fans likely would have. Most fans didn’t begin filing up the aisle until the fourth quarter. Impressive.