The Toronto Raptors' struggles continued on Sunday night, as they weren't able to convert a promising first half into a win, eventually falling to the Oklahoma City Thunder 108-104 in OKC. That makes it eight losses in the last nine games for the Raptors, who now sit at fourth in the Eastern Conference behind the Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Chicago Bulls.
The Raptors played textbook basketball in the first half, making extra passes, finding open shooters, and not settling as much for contested jumpers as they have in recent outings. The result was a 61-58 lead at the half, punctuated by an impressive 18 assists with only four turnovers.
In the second half, however, "hero ball" reared its ugly head again for the Raptors, as the basketball began to stick on offence and the Thunder pulled away. The Raptors made it close a couple times, but OKC never relinquished the lead again after going up 79-77 with three minutes left to go in the third quarter.
Terrence Ross had one of his best games of the season in his second consecutive start, scoring 20 points on 7-for-12 shooting, including a season-high six three-pointers. Even if the Raptors aren't winning, his re-insertion into the starting lineup seems to be working for him and he's helping the Raptors' spacing quite a bit. Silver linings, right?
DeMar DeRozan, meanwhile, had a roller coaster game, to say the least. He scored 16 points on 7-for-10 shooting in the first half, had zero points on 0-for-7 shooting in the first 22 minutes of the second half, then scored the Raptors' last 8 points. He finished the game with a team-high 24 points (on 11-for-22 shooting) and tied his season-high with 9 assists.
On the other side, the Thunder's MVP candidate, Russell Westbrook, continued putting up historic numbers for his team, registering his fifth triple-double in six games (and seventh of the season). His 30 points led all scorers, his 17 assists tied a career high, and his 11 rebounds, four steals, and one blocked shot were just gravy. Make all the quadruple-double jokes you want about his nine turnovers; he destroyed the Raptors all night long.
The Thunder bigs, Serge Ibaka (21 points on 10-for-15 shooting, seven rebounds, five blocks) and Enes Kanter (21 points on 9-for-14 shooting, 12 rebounds, four assists, and a block), gave the Raptors more than they could handle down low as well, as the Thunder scored 52 points in the paint and won the rebounding battle 49-33. Jonas Valanciunas only had one defensive rebound in 30 minutes of action and that's about all you need to know about his performance.
As has been the case more often than not lately, the Raptors will lick their wounds and try to get back in the win column in the next one. They head to Texas to take on the defending champion San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday, so it won't exactly be easy.
How are you guys holding up? Is this still a 50-win team? Are we officially in panic mode? Discuss it all in the comment section.
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