The Toronto Raptors moved to 5-2 on the young season on Wednesday night with a 112-102 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder (6-2).
The Raptors move to 2-0 on the road this season with the win, while the Thunder suffered their first home loss of the year in five games played at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Jonas Valanciunas missed his second consecutive game for the Raptors due to a left knee contusion, while Terrence Ross sat out to nurse a sprained right index finger that he suffered from a hand slap during Tuesday’s practice. Jakob Poeltl got another start next to Pascal Siakam in JV’s place, giving the Raps an all-rookie starting frontcourt for the second straight contest.
Toronto felt the absence of Valanciunas early, as the Thunder were able to double off Poeltl and put pressure on DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. OKC used that edge to get out to a 12-0 start, forcing the Raptors into several turnovers and missed shots before they finally scored their first bucket 7:17 into the game.
The Raps did manage to drag the score to 27-20 Thunder by the end of the opening frame — led by DeMar DeRozan’s 11 points on 5-for-9 shooting (4-for-5 after Andre Roberson went to the bench) — but the start of this game further suggests that the double-rookie starting frontcourt isn’t really ready for the big stage.
Toronto responded, however, with a 42-point second quarter and went into halftime with a 62-55 lead. DeRozan’s 22 first half points led all scorers at halftime, while Lowry had nine of his 13 assists at that point in the game.
Interesting tidbit on that high-scoring second quarter:
The @Raptors' 42 points in the 2nd quarter are tied for the 2nd-most in any quarter on the road in franchise history (48 - 1997)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 10, 2016
Raptors coach Dwane Casey addressed his team’s slow start to the game by putting Lucas Nogueira (who was a +25 in the first half) in place of Poeltl at centre at the start of the third quarter. The new starting five fared much better, leading to a 26-20 quarter in favour of Toronto. The Raptors went into the game’s final frame with a 88-75 lead. If Valanciunas isn’t good to go for Friday’s game against the Charlotte Hornets, Bebe could very well make his second career start.
The Thunder came out swinging in the fourth quarter with a 9-1 run and even managed to pull to within four point with just under five minutes to go. The Raps responded with an 8-0 run of their own, though, and never let it get that close again.
In the 112-102 win, DeMar DeRozan led all scorers with an efficient 37 points (on 13-for-22 shooting from the field and 11-for-15 from the line), while throwing in four boards, six assists, and three steals. That makes six 30-plus-point games for DeMar in seven games this season.
DeMar DeRozan became the 3rd player in the last 35 years with 6 30+ point games in first 7 games of a season. pic.twitter.com/7K3RJB5VAv— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 10, 2016
Oh, and this:
#Raptors DeMar DeRozan is the first player to average 34 points per game through a team's first 7 games since Michael Jordan in 1989-90 pic.twitter.com/meumdDuTOW— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) November 10, 2016
Yeah, DeMar’s been fantastic so far this year.
Meanwhile, Lowry posted a near-triple-double with 19 points, nine boards, and 13 assists, while shooting 5-for-11 from long range. The trio of Patrick Patterson (13 points, three triples), Lucas Nogueira (10 points, seven rebounds, two steals, two blocks, and a game-high +31), and Norman Powell (9 points) were all big off the bench and instrumental in the win as well.
On the other side of the ledger, Russell Westbrook scored 36 points of his own, adding seven rebounds, seven assists, and a whopping eight turnovers. Steven Adams double-doubled with 14 points and 12 boards and Victor Oladipo dropped 18 points, eight rebounds, and hit five triples.
This win marked the beginning of a tough stretch of eight in ten games that the Raptors play on the road. They will look to stay perfect away from the ACC on Friday, when they head to North Carolina to take on the East-leading 6-1 Charlotte Hornets.