It certainly is impressive for the Toronto Raptors to beat the league-leading Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder were the best team in the league record-wise, but Toronto started strong and fought throughout, eventually winning 104 to 98.
In the first quarter, the Raps had a lead of a few points but the Thunder went on a five-point run to get the score to 15-11 before Dwane Casey took a quick timeout to get things back under control. Amir Johnson and Tyler Hansborough were productive in the paint picking up most of the boards for the Raptors early, and the Thunder gave the Raps many second chances to finish their baskets. During this first quarter, the Steven Adams/Tyler Hansborough and Russell Westbrook/Kyle Lowry match-ups set the physical tone for the rest of the game. The players were scrappy and tenacious. The Raptors ended the first quarter with a lead of 25-21.
The second quarter saw multiple turnovers for the Raptors. The Thunder finally came back to lead the game by two points with five minutes left in the quarter but Kyle Lowry took a solid charge on Durant to stop another Thunder run. Demar DeRozan complimented the charge with easy bucket. In fact, DeRozan helped pace the Raptors with a consistent first half shooting 6-11 from the field. The half finished with the Dinos leading 62-56.
During the third quarter, it appeared that the Thunder would pull away for good. OKC went on a solid run, and with 5:53 remaining, it was only 71-68 for Toronto. And, with three minutes left, the Raptors hit an offensive brick wall shooting 24% and ceding 4 turnovers. Oklahoma capitalized on the poor play and took over with a lead of 82-73. The Raps missed 16 out of the 18 field goals at the end of the quarter and Oklahoma swung the score by 18 points in six minutes. A combination of offensive drought by the Raptors and hot shooting from Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook caused the deficit.
The Raptors battled back in the fourth quarter though with a combination of balanced attacks. Great defense, damage from the left block from Valanciunas, and great play from John Salmons (yes, Salmons) were the key ingredients in the Raps win. Salmons' length allowed him to guard Durant for stretches while his veteran playmaking helped the Raptor's offense stay in the game. Oklahoma pushed the Raptors hard and tied the game at 98 with a 1:35 left to go but Amir Johnson made some huge plays in the final moments, including a giant block on Russell Westbrook and knocking down clutch free throws to extend the Raptors lead.
And that was it.
The final score was 104-98 for the Raptors who dealt the OKC Thunder their first home loss on the season.
-The Raptors continue to show that their offense has much better flow without Rudy Gay. The club is now 5 and 2 without Mr. Gay.
- Jonas’ development offensively has been impressive, but his defense awareness is growing too
- DeRozan needs to continue work on his shot selection, missing a few wild jumpers throughout the fourth (two key ones in the final 5 minutes).
- John Salmons is a serviceable journeyman who brings veteran experience and versatility with his 6’6 frame. However, historically his offense outside of drives and exploitation of smaller guards in the post has been questionable.
- Greivis Vasquez is a new offensive option for the Raptors. But at times during this game he came across as trigger-happy.
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