Thunder Falls To Toronto, Gets Swept By Raptors
Nuggets from my notebook from Sunday’s 95-93 loss to Toronto.
- It looked like the Thunder took the Raptors lightly. How else can you explain this one? Toronto outplayed OKC for three quarters and then escaped in the final seconds after the Thunder finally decided to show up. It was that simple. Had the Thunder played with passion and purpose tonight like it did against, say, Miami, this one wouldn’t have been close.
- The Raptors swept the Thunder. Think about that for two seconds. San Antonio is the only other team that has done that this year. Toronto should not be on that list.
- The Thunder had previously beaten its past seven sub-.500 opponents by 21.6 points. That goes to show you the focus wasn’t there in this one.
- When the Thunder took an 18-10 lead, it looked like it would be a relatively easy night for the home team. Then the Raptors switched to a zone, which made OKC completely crap its pants. Everything the Thunder had done well offensively prior to that went out the window and the Raptors closed the period on a 15-4 run.
- It was a shame, too. Halfway through the opening quarter, I couldn’t tell if I was watching Scott Brooks’ offense or Phil Jackson’s. The Thunder was cutting, working off the post and spreading the ball around evenly. Four of the starters scored in the first six minutes.
- Kendrick Perkins was surprisingly awesome passing the rock early. He passed out of the post to Kevin Durant for a 3-ball. He found a cutting Thabo Sefolosha for a lightly contested layup. And he had a nice dime to Durant on a two-on-one break. That was all in the first 3 1/2 minutes. Perk should have had a fourth assist, but Serge “Stone Hands” Ibaka fumbled a nice feed as he cut down the middle of the lane.
- This would have been the perfect game for Nate Robinson. Outside of the first six minutes, and James Harden’s efforts in the first half, the Thunder couldn’t get much of anything going offensively all night. Robinson is the perfect spark plug in these situations. He can ignite the crowd and pump life into his teammates. Gonna be interesting to see how much Brooks uses him in these scenarios in the stretch run and the postseason.
- Durant missed another last-second shot. This one would have tied it and forced overtime. Fortunately for Durant (I guess), this one was so ugly that yet another missed jumper in the closing seconds was far from the story of this game.
- One of those things was the 3-pointer the Thunder allowed Leandro Barbosa to swish with 38.5 seconds left. It took 2.8 seconds for the Raptors to get Barbosa that game-tying 3. That’s become a pretty disturbing trend for the Thunder. Vince Carter did the exact same thing when the Suns came to town. And, though it was not out of a timeout, Eddie House hit a big 3 off an offensive rebound when Miami was here. The Thunder has got to make these teams work harder for these clutch baskets.
- Give the Raptors credit for the game-winner, though. The Thunder played great D on the pick-and-roll, blitzing Barbosa at the top of the key with Harden and Perkins. Barbosa made a great read and got it to Amir Johnson, who scored a jump hook over Durant.
- Here’s what Brooks said about that last defensive possession. “When you have an open shooter and you get caught up in the screen, somebody just has to release and switch. And we didn’t do that and he got an open look,” Brooks said. “It’s something that we will continue to get better at.”
- One of the most costly things tonight was two missed free throws by Perkins with 41 seconds left. Perkins worked his tail off in the fourth quarter, grabbing six rebounds (as many as the Raptors had as a team in the period). Three of those were on the offensive end. But when he was fouled while going back up after one of those offensive boards, it put the career 60-percent shooter at the stripe. Neither attempt was close. The Raptors tied it on Barbosa’s 3-ball three seconds later.
- I just looked at the stat sheet and saw this game had 17 lead changes. When the heck were those? Felt like Toronto was ahead from the end of the first quarter until Perkins split a pair of foul shots to put OKC up 89-88.
- The best part of this game: Perk showing he is bringing Boston’s gamesmanship to Oklahoma City. And I’m going to go out on a limb, Thunder heads, and say it’s not so bad when it’s on your team. With seven minutes left in the opening period, Johnson shoved Perkins right in front of the ref. It was the result of jawing that started between Perkins and James Johnson thirty seconds earlier. It looked like Johnson said something to Perkins first after Johnson hit a 3. But Perkins took it a step farther, barking in James Johnson’s ear on both trips down court until Amir’s shove.
- Westbrook almost had another nasty dunk when he rebounded a miss with one hand, reloaded it with both hands and nearly stuffed in a two-handed slam.
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