Raptors 111, Thunder 99
News, notes and observations from Friday’s loss at Toronto.
- The Thunder played some absolutely terrible defense in this one. Toronto made 45 of 82 shots (54.9 percent). It seemed like every made field goal for the Raptors was a layup, an alley-oop or an open jump shot. OKC’s resistance was straight up regretful.
- An easy excuse would be the triple-overtime game the Thunder played two nights earlier at New Jersey. But I’m not buying that. The key phrase is ‘two nights earlier.’ The Thunder had ample time to rest up and get ready. This looked much more like a game that the Thunder just didn’t show up for. The first quarter was terrible, and the only period in which the Thunder mustered any energy was the second quarter. That’s when OKC outscored Toronto 34-24.
- After taking a seven-point halftime lead, the Thunder watched the Raptors race to a 17-4 run to start the second half. It led to a 34-18 third quarter. OKC made just six field goals in the period and never had much of a chance in this one after that.
- I still thought Thunder coach Scott Brooks waived the white flag kind of early. The Thunder trailed by 14 with 2:55 left, and Brooks put in Byron Mullens, Royal Ivey and Mo Peterson along with Eric Maynor and Thabo Sefolosha. That unit quickly cut the deficit to nine a minute later, but the Raptors pushed it right back to double digits. Inserting the subs so early wasn’t a huge deal. I just would have liked to have seen Brooks let his main guys give it one more go
- Of course you know by now Kevin Durant didn’t play in this one, missing his second straight game because of a knee injury. The Thunder fell to 3-1 without Durant.
- In Durant’s absence, Russell Westbrook couldn’t replicate the same magic he made two nights earlier in New Jersey when he scored all 13 Thunder points in that third overtime. Westbrook had 20 points on 9-for-19 shooting with seven assists, three rebounds and five turnovers. And I thought Westbrook forced the action a lot tonight. He played recklessly and out of control throughout much of this one.
- After the game, Brooks made a comment about players playing too much one-on-one. While not naming any names, Brooks said the Thunder isn’t a team built to rely on one player to carry the load every night, and that only a handful of teams have players like that. That comment could easily have been directed at Westbrook, which effectively should bring us all back to reality after the past few days of fawning over his feats.
- D.J. White rolled his right ankle early in the second quarter trying to grab a rebound. He was immediately taken to the locker room and did not return to the bench. White looked like he was in a good amount of pain and struggled to put any pressure on his foot. The whole scene didn’t look good. If White is forced to miss extended time, it could open the door for Mullens to get some spot minutes, or the Thunder could recall Cole Aldrich from Tulsa. But remember, it’s not just about the games. Brooks also must have enough healthy bodies to accomplish something in practices as well. And with Durant nursing a knee injury, and White possibly missing some time now, Brooks could find himself in a bit of a bind.
- Before getting re-inserted in the final three minutes, Peterson got some early burn to start the second quarter. It marked just the third game Peterson has played. But for some reason, Peterson hasn’t shot the ball when he’s gotten even the smallest of opportunities. He took just three shots tonight, one of them coming in the final 40 seconds. They became only his third shots this season. Granted, in his first two games Peterson has played only seven minutes. But if I’m Peterson, I’m jacking up shots when I get in hoping to show my worth.
- James Harden had a really nice first half, and it looks like his slump might officially be over. In the first 24 minutes, Harden had 11 points, two rebounds and three assists. He finished with 20 points, four rebounds and three assists without a single turnover. Once again, Harden was aggressive attacking the paint and looked more comfortable hoisting shots rather than hesitating.
- Andrea Bargnani is nice! I see shades of Dirk in Bargnani’s perimeter and in-between game. Good luck to anyone trying to block his shot. Serge Ibaka looked awful on him. Nick Collison had his shot and Thabo Sefolosha got extended minutes on the Raptors sharp-shooting big man as well. None of them had an answer. Bargnani had 26 points and 12 boards.
- Keeping with that theme, Jose Calderon reminds me of a poor man’s Steve Nash. Calderon keeps his dribble and makes plays sometimes that make you think he has eyes in the back of his head. Westbrook’s defense on Calderon was non-existent, but for Calderon to finish with 15 assists in 30 minutes (and the rate was actually much better than that) was mighty impressive.
- Jeff Green had a career-high seven assists to go with his 17 points and four rebounds. It seemed to me that, with Durant out, Green should have been more aggressive, or the coaching staff should have called his number more frequently. The Thunder opened the game by going to Green on the left block (resulting in a miss) but rarely ever went back to it. My question is why? It could have potentially opened up a nice inside-out game, while also getting Green some easy buckets and trips to the foul line.
- The Raptors are incredible in transition.
- Sefolosha had a career-high six steals.
- The Thunder got to the line just 19 times tonight. That’s two shy of a season-low, set against Boston inside the Oklahoma City Arena on Nov. 7.
- Lastly, I listened to the first three quarters of this one on the radio. Matt Pinto does a great job. That broadcast could be so much better, though, with an analyst chiming in once in a while to break down what’s being done. Maybe it’s just me.
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