Thunder bounce back with win over Raptors
NOV 06, 2012 10:02p ET
And sometimes Toronto comes to town.
Both happened for Oklahoma City.
After losing to Atlanta on Sunday in a listless, surprising and error-filled game by the Thunder, the slump-busting Raptors showed up at Chesapeake Energy Arena and made it a game right up until tipoff. After that, it was over, but not official until the end of the fourth quarter, 108-88 Thunder.
Oklahoma was one of the first states called for Mitt Romney on Tuesday night, but the win over Toronto was even more predictable. The Thunder came into the game 1-2 and played so poorly against the Hawks there was no chance for Oklahoma City to do anything but improve against the Raptors.
"It's always good to get a win," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "Even if you win by a big margin, it's not easy. We did that tonight. We had a tough loss, but we're not going to put our head down. If we have a good win, we're not going to pump our chest."
Probably not a game that would be considered celebration worthy, but the Thunder can take a bit of pride in the fact they played defense Tuesday when it sure looked like it was optional Sunday.
After the Hawks went off for 49 percent shooting with a team of reserves and without Josh Smith, the Thunder held Toronto to 35.7 percent from the field.
"The start was a big part of the win tonight," Brooks said of the Thunder getting out to a 30-17 first-quarter lead. "We talked about starting the game with a defensive mindset and we did that in the first quarter. We played solid basketball. I thought all around it was a good win for us."
It's too early to project the Thunder should panic, however it was a 1-2 first week where there's plenty of room for concern – from player rotation to defense and turnovers – yet OKC showed it can beat teams like Toronto when it plays good defense, even if Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have a less-than-impressive night.
"With our group when we play the defense we play, it's great basketball," Brooks said.
Toronto isn't the barometer for whether teams play well or whether they play bad as evidenced by Durant and Westbrook combining to shoot 9-for-22 from the field and no one even really noticing.
"There were ready to play and we weren't," Toronto coach Dwane Casey said. "Bottom line is, I didn't recognize our team tonight. We didn't come out with the approach that we normally do. We have to come out and compete. We didn't do that and that's what we've been talking about."
The Thunder led by 13 at the end of one quarter, but 19 at half and by 22 at the end of three quarters. That was enough for the Thunder starters to get the rest of night off and enough to spin the season forward.
"We started the game with the right intensity," Durant said. "With a lot of energy. Everyone down the line was good tonight. That's what we need to get better."
Down the line means big minutes and production from Hasheem Thabeet, who played 23 minutes and scored 10 points. Thabo Sefolosha had his best game of the season, making 3 of 5 3-pointers and scoring 11 points and Kevin Martin scored 15 points, making it four games in a row he has gotten to double figures.
Maybe it was Toronto coming in and possibly it had something to do with its point guard Kyle Lowry going out, as he was lost for the game with an ankle injury right before halftime. Perhaps it was Atlanta stealing a win Sunday. The combination seemed to be the right fit for the Thunder to play well Tuesday.
"It was a good lesson," Durant said. "We have to come out with energy. That game is behind us. This game is behind us. We have to get ready for the next one."
Figure Durant, who hasn't had a huge game this season, is due for a highlight performance. Westbrook has been good once, but not great for three games. However, also figure when the Thunder plays defense, they'll win.
"We moved," Brooks said. "We were all over the floor."