OK, who had Toronto in the pool?
The Rockets next Sunday, the Blazers on New Year's Eve, the Warriors in mid-January? Sure.
But Toronto? Who even remembers that Toronto is in the league?
The Raptors served a timely reminder. They beat the Thunder 104-98 Sunday night, handing OKC its first home court loss of the season after a 13-0 start, and maybe we should have seen it coming.
This had trap game written all over it.
The Thunder was coming off an impressive Saturday night victory in San Antonio, which no one forgets is in the NBA. The Raptors, despite a 10-14 record, had shown recent signs of life, particularly a victory in Dallas on Friday night.
“They just came out with more effort,” Kendrick Perkins said. “They wanted it more. I think we was relaxed the whole game, from everybody, top to bottom.”
Usually that's just talk. But it probably was true Sunday night. The Thunder seemed to coast for long stretches.
Turnovers on six of nine possessions late in the first quarter. A defensive meltdown late second quarter, allowing the starless Raptors to score on nine straight possessions to end the half. A disastrous fourth quarter in which Toronto more than doubled the Thunder (29-14).
“They beat us fair and square,” said Kevin Durant, who had his second straight off game, making just five of 16 shots, a night after going 6-of-14 in San Antonio.
Bad losses happen. The Heat lost at home to Boston. The Pacers lost at home to Detroit. The Blazers lost at home to Dallas. You move on and try to minimize them.
The verdict showed a few things, starting with the value of Reggie Jackson. The Thunder will be hard-pressed to survive a 1-of-11 shooting night from its super sub.
Also showed timing, while not everything, is lots of things in the NBA. The Raptors traded away Rudy Gay two weeks ago; among the return package was John Salmons, who can at least guard Durant a little. Give Gay 30 minutes of guarding Durant, and KD is not shooting 5-of-16, I promise you.
The game also showed Scotty Brooks' willingness to try new things. Remember when everyone thought Foreman Scotty coached by automation? Those days are long gone.
Brooks used Perry Jones for more than seven minutes in the first half, then came back to Jones with 4:34 left in a tie game.
Strange move, and not one you make if winning the game is paramount. Brooks said he liked Jones' length on defense, but Toronto scored on two straight possessions to take a 98-93 lead, during which Jones missed a corner 3-point shot.
Jones — and the Thunder — will be the better for such crunchtime experience, but it came at a price. A nine-game winning streak, gone. An unbeaten home record, gone. An indestructible feeling against the Eastern Conference's also-rans, gone.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.