TORONTO — Not bad, eh?
The Thunder's emphatic 104-92 victory over Toronto on Sunday was not bad at all.
But if what we saw out of Oklahoma City inside Air Canada Centre is any indication, the Thunder might not find as much difficulty as you'd expect in its most arduous road stretch of the season.
Sunday certainly seemed to reveal the recipe for success as the Thunder set out to play 11 of 13 games away from Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Though it showed up against an injury-plagued Raptors squad, the Thunder exhibited some of its best defense of the year. For three quarters, all five Thunder players were locked in, swarming to the ball, crowding the paint and contesting shots.
The defense was so suffocating a brunette fan sitting on the baseline in front of the Thunder's bench was forced to spend much of the night bellowing a countdown to her beloved Raptors.
It was the fiancé of DeMar DeRozan, the Raptors leading scorer.
She was screaming out the time remaining on the shot clock as it steadily trickled below five.
“The only time they could score was in transition,” said Nick Collison. “They had a tough time scoring when we got back and played half-court defense.”
The Thunder held the Raptors to a combined 35 points on 37.8 percent shooting in the first and third quarters. That effort helped OKC start the final period with an 11-point cushion, one that eventually grew as large as 21 in the final three minutes.
In the first, third and fourth quarters, the Thunder limited the Raptors 38.8 percent shooting and forced Toronto into 13 of its 17 turnovers.
“We were active,” said Collison, who scored 10 points with eight rebounds. “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.
“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.”
Toronto entered the game fourth-to-last in rebounding differential with a minus-3.5 average. Sure enough, the Thunder out-rebounded the Raptors 41-31, bumping its record to 5-0 when out-rebounding opponents by at least 10.