Raptors hand Thunder first home loss of season
Tough ending to the week for the Thunder.
The Thunder had their 13-game home win streak end Sunday night to Toronto in a game where it looked as though OKC was disinterested for the first half and then even parts of the fourth quarter.
The loss, which ended a nine-game winning streak, was only the second at home, dating back to last season where the Thunder have held an opponent under 42 percent shooting. Then again, this was Toronto.
The Raptors have been tough lately and Toronto coach Dwane Casey mentioned his guys just play better on the road.
"This is one of the toughest places to play in the league," Casey said. "It is (our best win of the season). We’re a different team on the road. I see it in their eyes. I see a different look. I can’t put my finger on it."
So, watch out. If the Thunder and the Raptors do meet up in the Finals, Toronto could be in good shape, seeing as how they won’t have home-court advantage and all.
"I’m just worried about the Spurs tomorrow night," said Casey when posed with the Finals question.
OK, so maybe it was a bit too soon to start poking around and asking Finals questions of a now 11-14 team.
Moving on to the week that started so strong and finished with a lifeless home loss thud with a pair of thoughts and something you definitely didn’t see.
Won at Denver, 105-93
Won vs. Chicago, 107-95
Won at San Antonio, 113-110
Lost vs. Toronto, 104-98
Dec. 25 – at Knicks
Dec. 27 – at Charlotte
Dec. 29 – vs. Houston
1. Blame it on the Eastern Conference
The NBA season is long. Really long, considering the Thunder don’t play all their games against teams we’ve heard of.
No, OKC actually plays teams from the Eastern Conference and teams like Toronto, where much of the game is spent thinking out loud, "Wow, I didn’t know Landry Fields plays for them."
Yeah, so aside from the Thunder losing at home to the, "Who’s that guy again?" Toronto Raptors on Sunday, 104-98, the past week has kinda been a drag with games against Orlando, Chicago (without all its stars) and then Toronto.
No wonder the Thunder’s "Give-a-darn" meter finally snapped. You can only play these teams so many times without overlooking one. It nearly happened when the Thunder needed Orlando’s Glen Davis to miss a 3-pointer at the end of the game to preserve a three-point win.
And Sunday was the perfect day to do some serious overlooking. Maybe the Thunder players didn’t notice, but the Raptors are now 5-2 since trading Rudy Gay, who shares the ball slightly better than Carmelo Anthony. The Raptors have won at the Lakers, Mavericks and now the Thunder. They take on the Spurs Monday in San Antonio. Meanwhile, the Thunder had won at San Antonio on Saturday night, had won nine in a row overall and 17 of their last 18 games. Sunday is what folks would call a good spot for Toronto.
"Nahh," Durant said about whether his team was lacking the necessary energy Sunday night. "We missed some looks. We just couldn’t make shots tonight. Sometimes that’s the name of the game. We got good shots. We missed layups. I know I missed like five open 3s."
The Thunder shot just 36.8 percent and scored 14 points in the fourth quarter. When you miss shots like Durant mentioned, it’s generally an energy sort of thing. No shame in that. You can’t be great all the time.
"If they did or they didn’t, we still had to come out there and play," Raptor guard DeMar DeRozan said of whether he thought the Thunder may have overlooked his team.
2. The curious week of Kevin Durant. And Reggie Jackson.
So, pretty much Kevin Durant has ruled this season. He has. Been better in just about every category with career-highs so far in rebounds and assists. Five times this season, Durant has scored 30 points and had 10 or more rebounds.
And check it out this week: 28 points against Orlando, 30 against Orlando, 32 against the Bulls. But last night and tonight, Durant has dipped for whatever reason. He scored just 17 in the win at San Antonio and then 24 against the Raptors Sunday. In the past two games, Durant has shot 11-of-30 with nine turnovers and just six assists.
"Big-time win for us," Toronto’s John Salmons said. Salmons was guarding Durant much of the night and Durant shot just 5-of-16, including 3-of-10 in the fourth quarter. "We definitely paid all of our attention to Durant. He’s one of the best players in the league."
And what’s up with Jackson? Amazing week until a performance like none other we’ve seen this season on Sunday. He was 16-of-26 the past two games but then dropped off a 1-of-11 against Toronto.
"We had a few guys who have made shots all season," coach Scott Brooks said. "Reggie had a lot of good looks. He hasn’t had a game like this this season. 1-for-11 we’re not worried about. He’s going to come back and play much better the next time out."
OK, if Brooks isn’t worried, you shouldn’t be either. Jackson has shot worse than 40 percent from the field just twice in December. Jackson will be OK, but if Brooks isn’t worried, why didn’t he stick with Jackson in the fourth quarter? Good players slump, but Jackson has been in on closing time all season, why not Sunday when it was a tie game and Brooks instead went to Perry Jones with 4:36 to play. Jones immediately came in and missed a corner 3-pointer. Toronto scored on its next possession and Jackson came in for Derek Fisher with 3:31 left.
Durant had the help of his teammates Saturday night in San Antonio. Seemed like just about everyone played well from Russell Westbrook to Steven Adams. But that wasn’t the case Sunday. Westbrook had 27 but Adams managed only 10 minutes of playing time, due to five fouls. Jackson struggled and in turn, that magnified Durant’s shooting woes.
And did you know?
Russell Westbrook acknowledged his biggest fan. Sort of.
In the second half after a timeout, Westbrook came over to the scorer’s table. He was wondering who the person was who always shouts, "C’monnnnn, Russsellll," each time he takes a free throw at home.
The woman, who sits in the lower-bowl section of Chesapeake Arena, has been doing her routine for at least two seasons. Every home game. Every Westbrook foul shot.
Westbrook was looking into the crowd and the woman waved back. Westbrook also joked how he holds on to the ball just long enough for her to finish her request. He smiled at her and then went back into the game. It’s the first time he’s ever had any contact with her.
Oh, and Westbrook was 10-of-11 from the foul line on Sunday. The two are probably Facebook friends by now, right?
Follow Andrew Gilman on Twitter: @andrewgilmanOK