Game Notes: Thunder at Raptors
After a beautiful sunny day in Toronto, Thunder strikes!
by Tariq Sbiet / @Tsbiet
Yes, it was a big victory against the Atlanta Hawks two days ago and yes, the Raptors snapped out of their five-game funk. But no, Toronto did not show up defensively yet again, allowing 105 points. I don’t mean to be a Debby Downer, (where did that saying come from?) as a matter of fact, I’m the type of person who will always view my glass as half full. But, to make it simple, the only way the Raptors can gain respectability around the League and join the higher echelon of teams is by defense, defense, defense. Keep in mind that All-Star Joe Johnson was out of the line up on Wednesday, which is automatically eliminating 21.5 ppg out of the equation.
After being asked about tonight’s keys to the game, Andrea Bargnani, who stepped up on the boards, grabbing 11 last game immediately responded,
“It’s defense, when we’re losing we’re allowing around 117 points and that just can’t happen.”
Bargnani continues, “Every game is important for us because we’re in the 8th spot and Chicago is right behind us so we got to make sure that we create separation from them.”
Oklahoma City had just lost to Michael Jordan and the Bobcats. Yeah, I said it; MJ is back, except now he is playing the role of owner.
DeMar DeRozan and Russell Westbrook were lounging on the scores table prior to the game conversing about the olden days when they both played in the Pac-10 conference. DD for USC and Westbrook for UCLA.
After the final result, (although the Raps got an old-fashioned spanking) DeRozan introduced Russell to momma dukes outside the visitor change room. It’s all love!
Right from the jump, OKC got on the glass grabbing 8 Offensive rebounds in the quarter. It seemed like they were scoring on every possession. “Anytime you play a team where they throw it up and half the time that they’ve missed they’re getting it back, you’re going to be in a little bit of a hole,” said Coach Jay Triano.
That was more than a hole, I’d call it a ditch.
Bargnani looked to attack against Nenad Krstic early instead of settling for the jumper. Although he came up short on a couple drives, that is the right play every time when being defended by a slower Kristic. Bargs had a strong quarter with 13 points on 6-9 FG. Yet, he went cold for the rest of the contest adding only 2 points to make it 15 for the game.
For OKC, it was the usual suspect in Kevin Durant who did the damage, scoring 12 in the first, totaling 31 for the game along with 6 boards. There was no resistance toward Durant, similar to Jamal Crawford from his performance on Wednesday. Explosive wing players have presented a problem for the Raps for as long as I can remember. Either DeRozan or Weems will need to step it up and take on the defensive assignments aggressively if the Raptors want do make any noise in the Playoffs. (If they make it)
Then you have Russell Westbrook who managed a double-double (11 points. 10 assists) while absolutely punishing the Raptors in the open floor. Westbrook is a very unique point guard given that he possesses that unparalleled combination of strength, speed and athleticism. He will be a problem for years to come, and in my opinion has the potential to be an All-Star as soon as next season.
Hard foul on Durant had the Air Canada Centre content
The Thunder put up 39 which is a clear indication of my previous point regarding the Raptors lack of defense.
The Thunder continued to strike hard in the second at all angles: in transition, in the half court and most obvious on second chance points.
This game began to remind me of that embarrassing loss to the Hawks (146-115 in December) where defense was yet again non-existent. Except only this time, it was happening at home where Torontonians don’t take too kindly to lack of effort.
“We just got to forget about this one, it was bad. I understand everything that happened with the fans and everything. It was a bad game, it was bad for everybody out there, and we just have to move on to the next game,” said an optimistic Jose Calderon.
For an exclamation point, Serge Ibaka almost took down the rim off of a put back cram, which seemed to deflate the Raps and bring back the Thunder lead to 17.
Durant was clearly impressed, “Serge Ibaka…that was an unbelievable play, one of the best players I’ve ever seen.”
OKC just wanted it more as they pounded Toronto on the glass for second and third chance opportunities, out rebounding Toronto 35-20 at this point.
Chris Bosh said it best,“At the end, it’s all about who wants the ball more. You could put the best athletes in the world in front of me and I guarantee he won’t get it. Unless you have that desire, that frame of mind, it doesn’t matter. We let guys walk down in the post, let guys go by us, it’s just too easy.”
Kevin Durant had 23 points in the half and shoulder shrugged his way to perfection at the charity stripe, 15-15 FT
The half ended with fans booing their home team off the court.
The score was 82-51 around the 7 minute mark when the only thing left to cheer about was Reggie Evans being subbed into the game.
Things were getting ugly and I was left with no choice but to stream the Gonzaga/Florida State game and catch some of the madness.
To my satisfaction, the Zags were up by double digits midway through the second half. Now let’s get back to the game at hand, shall we?
We have now approached the end of the third quarter with a 32 point lead for the Thunder.
The 3rd Quarter ended the same way that the half did, with more boos. Performances like this sure don’t increase the Raps chances of re-signing Bosh either.
“It’s a bad thing that it happened at home in front of our fans because they’ve been with us every game,” explains Calderon.
What a nightmare! With Drizzy Drake and Donnie Wahlberg in the house, you would think the game would have more of a buzz to it right?
Anyway, garbage minutes are now beginning to be assigned by Jay Triano with Rasho Nesterovic, Reggie Evans, Marcus Banks, Marco Bellinelli and Sonny Weems taking the floor.
Defence was discussed in the beginning of this piece but on this particular night, the Raptors were awful on both ends of the floor, coughing up the rock 19 times. But you have to credit OKC for setting the tone early by attacking the basket aggressively, drawing fouls and simply playing with more energy.
Second chance points, free throws, rebounding, turnovers, defense: all responsible for Toronto’s woes.
With a win here, the Raptors could’ve got back to their winning ways of pre-All-Star break, but instead they take the walk of shame and get pummeled at home.
Remember when I said I view my glass as half full? Well it’s safe to say it is half empty with regards to the Raptors.
– Durant perfectly summarizes his team’s success: “We made easy passes, we got a lot of fast break opportunities, we ran our plays and we executed”
– When asked what the difference was between Atlanta’s game to tonight, Chris Bosh responded with a perplexed “I don’t know”
– Jay Triano on the mismatches OKC presents: “They’re quicker to the basketball they’re more athletic and it causes us problems”
– The Thunder are a dangerous team and are not to be taken lightly come Playoff time. Don’t be surprised if they pull off some “upsets.” Although OKC is young, they have a complete team and ever growing swagger.
“Our confidence is always up. There’s a fine line between arrogance and confidence. I think we know that. We’re also humble after a win, but we got to continue to keep working and if we stick to the game plan, we’ll be okay moving forward.”
The Raptors, however, are luckily playing New Jersey next, which should be a free be. But if you have been a follower of the Raptors over the years, nothing is a guarantee. T.O. needs to pick it up and quick to not only secure a Playoff bid but also avoid the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round.