Thunder 104, Raptors 92
Nuggets from my notebook from Sunday’s win at Toronto.
- Three quarters of stout defense won this game for OKC. And what a three quarters it was.
- In the first, third and fourth quarters, the Thunder held the Raptors to 38.8 percent shooting and forced Toronto into 13 of its 17 turnovers. All five Thunder players on the court during those periods were locked in. They swarmed to the ball. They contested shots. They packed the paint. And they got back in transition.
- Nick Collison: “It was another good defensive game. That’s two in a row for us where we’ve been locked in for the majority of the game.”
- The Raptors were extremely shorthanded. But still. If this is how the Thunder will play on this road stretch, there’s not much to worry about.
- The Thunder held the Raptors to a combined 35 points in the first and third periods. Toronto shot a combined 37.8 percent in those quarters. Statistically, those weren’t the best quarters of Thunder basketball. But from a defensive standpoint, aesthetically, they ranked right up there.
- OKC forced Toronto to work deep into the shot clock on nearly every possession in the opening quarter. And throughout the game the Raptors continued to have to search for shots late in the clock. Nothing exemplified how effective the Thunder’s defense was more than that.
- A brunette fan was sitting on the baseline in front of the Thunder’s bench barking out a countdown throughout the game. She was counting down the time left on the shot clock as it continuously trickled down. It was DeMar DeRozan’s fiance. Thanks to the Thunder’s suffocating defense, she was forced to spend much of her night shouting the time.
- More from Collison on the lock down defense: “The only time they could score was in transition. They had a tough time scoring when we got back and played halfcourt defense.”
- Collison went on to break down how the Thunder’s game plan always is to take away what teams do best and force them into second and third options. That, Collison said, is exactly what took place tonight. “We’re trying to always fight over screens and make them shoot over a hand or make them do something else. In the pick-and-roll, we’re trying to cover it so they have to pass and do something else; then guard that action and make them do something else and make them play deep into the shot clock.”
- I thought Russell Westbrook really set the tone with his ball pressure to start the game. He got up into Jose Calderon and forced turnovers while also playing the passing lanes for steals and deflections.
- At the other end, Westbrook got off to a great start distributing the ball before finishing with seven assists. He set up Serge Ibaka several times with nice dump off passes or kick-outs, and he had a nice drive and dish to Kevin Martin for 3.
- I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Thunder had a nice balanced offensive night when Westbrook came out and focused on defense and getting his teammates involved. Westbrook had just eight points at halftime but had four assists. Kevin Martin, Kevin Durant and Ibaka, meanwhile, had all scored at least 10 by the break.
- Five Thunder players scored in double figures in this one. And OKC moved to 14-0 when that happens.
- When Westbrook needed to turn on his offense he did just that. The Thunder led by just two at halftime. Westbrook then came out for the third quarter and scored 12 of his team-high 23 points. Six came at the charity stripe.
- Westbrook had a small amount of blood in the corner of his right eye, just below the eight stitches he received on New Year’s Eve. I’m not sure how it happened, but I’m positive Wolverine didn’t even notice it.
- Westbrook’s recent play reminds me of a analogy Scott Brooks once used. Brooks said coaching this team is like those old cartoon characters who stop water from oozing out of one hole only to see it bust through another. With regard to Westbrook, his shooting percentages are rising and his decision-making is improving. But his turnovers are shooting back up. He had another five tonight, giving him a 4.75 average over the past eight games.
- Durant did a great job taking care of the ball tonight. He tied Westbrook with a team-high seven assists but had just one turnover. In his last five games, KD has averaged just 1.8 turnovers.
- Durant scored 22 on 11 shots. I’m shaking my head in disbelief right now. As one media member, in his Canadian accent, put it after the game: “Kevin Durant is just unfair.”
- The Thunder took a ton of 3s tonight. OKC had eight in the first quarter and 22 for the game. The team made only six, however. All five of Thabo Sefolosha‘s shots were 3-pointers. (He made only one.)
- Collison was big early with his rebounding. He pulled down seven of his eight rebounds by halftime and four of those seven were on the offensive end. In typical Collison fashion, he just kept plays alive and gave the Thunder one second chance after another.
- Collison has either recorded or come close to recording a double-double in three of the past five games. He finished with 10 points and eight rebounds today. He had 10 and nine against Phoenix and 12 and 10 at Houston. “I think my activity has been good,” Collison said. “I’ve been pursuing rebounds on the offensive end and the defensive end. That’s getting me some buckets offensively. And I’m trying to be aggressive when I have a shot. I’m trying to see it before I catch the ball and look for opportunities.”
- The entire team rebounded well against the Raptors. Four players had at least seven boards.
- Kendrick Perkins was one of the four with at least seven boards. That’s three straight games that he’s had at least seven rebounds.
- The Raptors are the fourth worst rebounding team in the league based on differential. And they were missing Andrea Bargnani (not a good rebounder) Jonas Valanciunas, Aaron Gray and Linas Kleiza. Terrence Ross also left the game today. That set up perfectly for the Thunder. “We knew that because of some of their injuries they’ve been playing small,” said Brooks. “So we had to attack the offensive glass.”
- The Thunder won the rebounding game 41-31 and moved to 6-0 when out-rebounding opponents by at least 10.
- K-Mart had another dunk tonight!
- Alan Anderson made his first shot and I rolled my eyes. He made his second shot and I started to wonder if he would fit in OKC. He made his third one and I started to think he was Reggie Miller reincarnated.
- Anderson absolutely had his way with the Thunder. He scored a career-high 27 points on 10 of 14 shooting. He had 19 of those points in the second quarter, going 4-for-4 from downtown before eventually missing his final four attempts from that range. The defense started off soft on him, and he got a few in transition that allowed him to get going.
- Brooks on Anderson: “He was good. He made four 3s in that first half. He was automatic. And then with his mid-range game and his drive, he made a couple of layups. He’s a good player. I give him a lot of credit because he’s been throughout the league a little bit in his short career, but I think he’s found a home and he’s taking advantage of it.”
- If Anderson was Miller, Amir Johnson pulled his best Karl Malone. In that second quarter, Johnson complemented Anderson by scoring eight points on 4-for-4 shooting. The Thunder gave him the mid-range shot (a wise move in my opinion) and Johnson proceeded to bury one after another.
- Brooks on the Raptors’ 32-point second quarter: “I thought that was our lack of focus in that second quarter defensively. That second quarter, we were just exchanging baskets. And when you do that teams can get comfortable and teams can get hot.”
- At halftime, Anderson had one less point than Durant and Westbrook combined.
- Worth noting that Anderson did just erupt against the Thunder. Yes, he had a career high in points. But he came into this game averaging 14.6 points in his past nine games. He had 20 in his last outing, which came two days earlier against Sacramento.
- Also worth noting that Anderson had three points in 18 minutes in the first meeting between these two teams.
- I love Sunday afternoon games. Make it happen from next season on, Thunder. It only makes all the sense in the universe.
- And while you’re at it, Thunder, bring me back the Thunder Girls soul train line and the Olate Dogs!!
- Thurman Thomas and Muggsy Bogues were in the house tonight.
- Was it me or did the Raptors have about five air-balls in the first half?
- K-Mart when asked what he sees when Westbrook storms down the lane for layups: “I see a bull going down and knocking everybody out the way. His body is built for that.”
- Durant is begging for fouls more and more this season. He spent much of the first half and early part of the third quarter looking at the official after every shot. To his credit, he had a reason to complain in this one.
- Westbrook, too.
- Durant got called for another technical foul today, his third in three games. Two, of course, came in the loss to Brooklyn when he got ejected for the first time in his career. Naturally, he got hit with this one for arguing about a no-call. I’m not sure why Durant has been so frustrated this season. I’ll fish around and see what he says.
- Interesting that when Kyle Lowry got his technical foul K-Mart shot the free throw. But when Raptors coach Dwane Casey got his technical foul, Durant shot it.
- It’s official. Kevin Martin is the new Daequan Cook. No, not as a player. But rather as a player who can’t stop stepping out of bounds upon catching passes and either shooting or making a move.
- One thing I love about Reggie Jackson: the way he barks instructions. He’s the most vocal point guard on the team. Westbrook doesn’t call out orders like Jackson, and neither does Eric Maynor. Westbrook’s calling the play one time. If you don’t get it, sorry for ya. Maynor does a little better but still is not great. Jackson? He’s shouting instructions and pointing all over the place. If you never saw him cross the 3-point line, you’d say ‘Now that’s what a point guard looks like.’
- One thing I hate about Jackson: how hard he is on himself. In the final minute, Jackson missed a pull-up jumper. He more than made up for it at the other end by emphatically rejecting a John Lucas layup attempt. But while the entire bench jumped and celebrated, Jackson just sort of walked around moping, apparently kicking himself for the shot he just missed. He does this way too much. When he makes mistakes, he routinely pats his chest with the palm of his hand as he looks over to the bench and says “my bad.” I want to scream at him STOP IT AND PLAY BALL! He’s seriously got to quit being so tough on himself. It’s not healthy.
- Casey had a nice compliment for the Thunder: “I’ll tell you what, they are one of the most talented and well-coached teams in the league. I have the utmost respect for Scotty, for him growing the program the way he’s done from scratch. He took the losses early. He and Sam (Presti) worked together and did a good job of building that program.”
- The Thunder is now 4-1 on Sundays this season.
- And finally, because I woke up and didn’t read a paper or turn on the TV or radio, I got to the arena out of the loop. A few media members up here looked at me sideways when I didn’t know that the NHL lockout had ended. In case you’ve never been to Canada, hockey is kind of a big deal. This game took a backseat to that breaking news. And basketball will up here from now on. We even got Westbrook to chime in on the lockout being lifted after 113 days. “I haven’t really been following it, but I hope they got the deal they wanted,” he said. “I don’t really know how the hockey thing works, how much players get paid and things like that, but I’m pretty sure when somebody loses their job or are out of work it hurts.” On a related note, as someone pointed out to me before the game, with hockey back, the NBA’s highlight makers will have to make room for glove saves and such on SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays. And as someone else pointed out, the Oklahoma City Barons could now be about to blow.
- Up next. At Washington on Monday.
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