The Toronto Raptors’ late rally ran out of time — literally by less than a second, as Justin Champagnie’s tip-in failed to beat the buzzer, and the Raptors lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder 110-109. Gary Trent Jr. led the Raptors with 24 points and two steals, while Pascal Siakam had another all-around solid game of 23 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists. Scottie Barnes filled the statsheet with 18 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 blocks. Fred VanVleet poured in 14 of his 19 points during the comeback attempt in the fourth but struggled for the first 3 1/2 quarters.
It looked like smooth sailing for the Raptors early, as they had the Thunder within arms reach, comfortably leading for most of the first half while shooting 59.5% from the field. Unfortunately, the Raptors hit a wall in the third quarter, as the Thunder clogged the paint and pestered VanVleet whenever he had the ball. It led to a miserable 5-27 shooting in the 3rd period, as the Thunder outscored the Raptors 33-12.
Canadians Lu Dort and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander combined for 48 points, and were a thorn on the Raptors’ side for most of the game. Dort finished with 22 points with 4 3PM, while Gilgeous-Alexander finished with 26 points and nine assists, including the kick out to Mike Muscala for the game-winner.
It was a tough loss for the Raptors, as they struggled to find the right combination in the third, as they shot brick after brick. What’s more disappointing about this loss is the defensive letdown in the third period, which led to easy transition points for the Thunder. Svi Mykhailiuk had another tough game, but rookie Justin Champagnie showed his nose for the ball.
Chris Boucher looked energetic for his first start of the season, catching a lob from Scottie Barnes, emphatically blocking OKC rookie Josh Giddey’s layup on one end, and rim running for a layup on another. However, a sloppy start for the Raptors kept OKC toe-to-toe with them, despite Pascal Siakam’s smooth midrange game. The Raptors tightened up their game and went on a 21-7 run to close the quarter, leading 36-26.
Kenrich Williams and Scottie Barnes exchanged three-pointers to start the second frame, and it was a showcase of ugly basketball that would ensue over the next few minutes. The Raptors failed to capitalize and extend their lead. Instead, they allowed the Thunder to inch closer, turnover the ball over several times, allowing the Thunder to get within three via Lu Dort’s five quick points. Gary Trent Jr. and Pascal Siakam led the Raptors on a 16-6 run and helped maintain a decent lead at the half, 64-54.
The Thunder came out of the half determined to let everybody else except VanVleet and Siakam get a wide-open look, which led to a lot of Boucher. Way too much Boucher. OKC clogged the paint and let the Raptors hoist brick-after-brick, missing all ten three-pointers in this quarter. The Thunder jumped on this opportunity as they went on a 33-12 quarter behind Gilgeous-Alexander’s 16 points. That’s right, Shai scored more points than the entire Raptors in the 3rd quarter. The Thunder turned a 10-point deficit and made it 87-76 to their advantage at the end of the quarter.
The Thunder got up as many as thirteen points as the Raptors opened up with more bricks in the final frame, with only one field goal to show in the first four-and-a-half minutes of the final frame. They also extended their perimeter futility to thirteen straight misses before VanVleet got out of his funk and snapped the streak. Perhaps seeing VanVleet’s perimeter shot go in inspired the Raptors to mount a comeback, as they went on a 22-12 run to tie the game at 105 with under a minute to go.
THE PUTBACK WAS TOO LATE— NBABet (@nbabet) December 9, 2021
THUNDER (+270) ESCAPE WITH A WIN ✅ pic.twitter.com/IRji3Wo1sr
VanVleet and Gilgeous-Alexander exchanged two free throws on the next two plays. VanVleet got in the paint with about 18 seconds to go and found a cutting Justin Champagnie for an acrobatic layup to take the lead, 109-107. This time, Gilgeous-Alexander did the same on the other end, collapsing the Raptors’ defense and tracking Mike Muscala around the perimeter for a three-pointer to take the lead, 110-109 with eight seconds to go. VanVleet got into the paint but had his shot blocked, and Champagnie’s tip was just a nail too long for it to count, and that was game.