Last night, we saw the difference between a perennial contender and a team trying to find their legs.
With Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Serge Ibaka leading the way, the Raptors ran into an opponent who wasn't about to let a second consecutive loss happen an Eastern Conference team.
Toss in Thabo Sefolosha bombing it from beyond the arc, and the Raptors had no answers early.
More importantly, consistency and "doing the right things" from start to finish is what got the Thunder the win.
The Thunder knew who they were and what they needed to accomplish. Dribble penetration, pick and rolls with their bigs, and Kevin Durant overwhelming the smaller Landry Fields and anyone else who got in his way just brought the house of cards down on the Raptors.
Things couldn't have gotten worse until the end of the second quarter. Mixing it up with the bigs for a rebound under the basket, Kyle Lowry rolled his right ankle by stepping on Serge Ibaka's foot and did not return to the game.
The silver linings? Jonas Valanciunas shook off his first half issues and managed to finish with 18 points on a very effective 6-8 shooting and had a perfect game at the free throw line. Terrence Ross also seemed to find his stroke and managed to score 10 points in the game.
While it's still early in the season, the Raptors are already trying to find themselves. I wholeheartedly expect to see some more losses like this as our team tries to figure out their "winning formula". Dwane Casey hasn't figured out his rotations, as we saw Dominic McGuire early last night. The Raptors still haven't figured out how to play 8 or 9 players together in a strong rotation and it shows.
Sure, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry have been very effective together so far, but that all came to a grinding halt last night. With OKC shutting down our starting guard tandem, the Raptors were easy pickings. Bargnani was the only player to register more than one made shot midway through the second quarter, and it was far from an efficient scoring line.
Let's just say though, that DeRozan and Lowry had off nights before Lowry's injury. They've been otherwise great so far.
But that's only two of your five starters. Andrea Bargnani still cannot find the form that bought him a lot of slack last year, Jonas Valanciunas is a project who is gaining experience against the best centers in the NBA, and Fields...
Well, I know it's early in the season, but hopefully we'll see a different rotation sooner rather than later.
A configuration of DeRozan and Alan Anderson to start, with Fields backing up DeRozan and Terrence Ross backing up Anderson sounds pretty good to me right now. I've always felt that Fields was too short to guard a lot of small forwards, and Alan Anderson has been more effective offensively and is a bigger body.
On the bench side of things, having Landry Fields paired up with Jose Calderon and Terrence Ross may give him more opportunities. At least Fields would be going at smaller shooting guards while Terrence Ross at least has the wingspan to be competitive with the backup small forwards in the league.
Though, on nights like these, no rotation change is going to beat a team that simply has more talent, skill, and rhythm.