Raptors Rip Apart Thunder
Well, that was awful. The Oklahoma City Thunder were soundly defeated on Wednesday night, losing 112-102 to the Toronto Raptors at the Peake.
The Thunder looked amazing in the first quarter. They played with a sense of urgency pushing the pace and using their athleticism and stifling defense to get out to an early 12-0 run. The half- court offense was a thing of Spursian beauty, and Toronto looked dazed.
Demar DeRozan couldn’t get comfortable early, thanks in large part to a great effort on defense by Andre Roberson, although in his efforts to guard the NBA’s leading scorer, he picked up 2 relatively quick fouls, and was forced to the bench. DeRozan had hit only 1 shot and committed three turnovers at that point. DeRozan would get going against the bench of the Thunder, and led the game in scoring with 11 points in the first.
The Thunder had a gameplan coming in and they executed it beautifully at the start. They forced the Raptors to commit 6 turnovers in the first quarter, and Toronto didn’t attempt their first free throw of the game until 53.1 seconds were left in the first game.
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But, as these things have gone early in the season for the Thunder, the bench couldn’t get going, and let the Raptors get back into the game. OKC led by seven going into the second frame, and by the time halftime came around, they were trailing by 7, a fourteen-point swing in a quarter the Thunder allowed the Raptors to put up 42 points.
Toronto started to trap the Thunder on defense, particularly any time OKC got the ball anywhere near the paint. Toronto went on a 14-6 run over a four-minute span, and Billy Donovan was called for a technical for arguing foul calls with the guy in the zebra shirt. To be fair to Donovan, the officiating was extremely inconsistent all game to my eye as well, but that is not an excuse for how the Thunder played tonight.
After the first quarter they seemed lost and unengaged for large periods of time, excluding Victor Oladipo and Steven Adams, both of whom had good games. Adams played his heart out, often fighting for offensive rebounds and second chance points. Oladipo continued his recent torrid stretch from behind the arc, shooting 5-9 from deep tonight. Oladipo finished with 18. Adams had a double-double with 14 points and 12 boards.
With great power comes great responsibility, and Russ was pretty awful tonight. He finished with 36 points, 7 assists, and 7 rebounds, but the box score gives him way too much credit. Westbrook hijacked way too many possessions with horribly deep three point attempts or wild drives to the bucket in the hopes of drawing the foul. He shot 9-26 from the field and an unbearable 3-12 from three.
Enes Kanter was invisible for most of his 19 minutes tonight and finished with 8 points on 3-3 shooting. As the main scoring option off the bench, and with an extremely poor defensive game, Kanter simply has to get up more than three shots in a game. The rest of the bench was also horrifically bad, and Billy Donovan needs to figure something out with his reserves. The Thunder have largely gotten away with a lot of mistakes early on this season, as the level of competition they’ve faced so far hasn’t been elite, and tonight was a good example of how those mistakes will hurt you against the elite teams of the NBA.
Roberson’s botched transition dunk was indicative of the game as a whole tonight, especially the second and third quarters. At one point in the third, the Thunder missed 11 consecutive shots over the course of around 5 minutes. OKC at least made it somewhat interesting in the final frame, cutting the lead back down to four, but it never felt that close. DeRozan’s stepback from the corner with around a minute left to play was the final dagger for the Thunder. DeRozan finished with 37 points.
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Kyle Lowry was a silent assassin for the Raptors tonight, picking the Thunder apart to the tune of 13 assists, and he seemed to be able lob an alley-oop almost at will. Coming into tonight the Raptors were ranked dead last in the NBA in 3-point percentage, and you never would’ve been able to tell watching the game. They finished the night shooting 42.3% on 11-26 from three.
The loss is only the second of the season for the Thunder, dropping them to 6-2 early on in the campaign. They have a day to get right before the Clippers roll into town on Friday, looking to avenge their loss to the Thunder last week.