“We had a tough loss last game,” Brooks said. “But we’re not a team that’s going to put our head down and run from what we need to work on. And if we have a good win, we’re not going to all of a sudden pump our chest out and say ‘You know what, we’re good now.’ We’re a solid team.”
The Thunder took control of the game with two first-half runs that led to what proved to be insurmountable double-digit deficits for Toronto. Both, impressively, came at the end of quarters. The first was a 15-3 spurt that turned a 15-12 lead into a 15-point cushion for OKC with 1:45 remaining in the opening quarter. But the game changed for good after the Raptors later used a 9-2 run to pull within 11, and then the Thunder went on a 17-7 surge that built a 21-point lead with 28.3 seconds remaining in the first half.
Oklahoma City never trailed in the second half and went on to lead by as many as 29.
“It was a good lesson,” Durant said of Sunday’s setback. “We’ve got to come out with a lot of energy. And tonight we did that.”
Who knew Thabeet would be the spark plug?
The former No. 2 overall pick out of Connecticut scored 10 points with five rebounds and two blocked shots before fouling out in his 23rd minute. Brooks used the 7-foot-2 center as the first man off the bench, ironically succeeding the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, who he hasn’t lived up to despite being taken one spot ahead of James Harden in the 2009 draft.
Against both smaller and more athletic players, such as Dominic McGuire, and more traditional centers, like Aaron Gray and Jonas Valanciunas, Thabeet made an impact. He clogged the paint, controlled the boards and, with growing confidence, even talked a little smack.
“He’s a much improved player from the last time I saw him,” said Kevin Martin, who teamed with Thabeet in Houston for parts of the past two seasons. “I don’t know what’s in this water up here, but it’s good. He’s been tremendous. I’m sure he’ll keep on being motivated to play like that.”
Can he inspire his teammates to follow suit?