The Toronto Raptors looked like a team without an answer tonight as they failed to get that elusive franchise record 50th win. The Raptors never really had control of this game and ultimately fell to the Oklahoma City Thunder 119-100. To exemplify their dominance against Toronto – the Thunder led this contest for all but 15 seconds. The Thunder came started the game on a 15-3 run that the Raptors had a hard time fighting back from. Toronto did manage to get a 31-30 lead early in the second quarter however it didn’t last very long and OKC took off from there. DeMar DeRozan led Raptors’ scorers with 19 points in 34 minutes, while Kevin Durant scored a cool 34 points to go along with 8 rebounds and 8 assists on the way to an Oklahoma City victory. Toronto’s next attempt at win number 50 comes this Wednesday when they take on the 3rd place Atlanta Hawks.
The Raptors offence was helpless against the defence of OKC tonight. Toronto managed to score 100 points, however it was on 41% shooting with much of the game decided well before the final horn. Kyle Lowry was held to just 14 points on 4-for-14 shooting.
The Raptors offence played right into the hands of the Thunder’s defensive schemes as they effectively took out Toronto’s all-stars forcing role players to try and come up big. Too many times were the Raptors forced to resort to the jump-shooting abilities of James Johnson and Norman Powell. It may appear like the right shot because these players are left open, however this is all done on purpose. Neither Powell or Johnson are designated shot-makers and often get their points as a result of a broken play or a late clock bail-out situation.
Toronto’s offense just seemed out of sync tonight and a player like Terrence Ross could’ve really helped keep the Thunder’s defence honest. Not allowing OKC to load up defensively on the Raptors’ stars could’ve really helped get the Raptors’ offense going, but that’s a tale for another game.
The Thunder put up 119 points in regulation on 48% shooting. If the game-plan was to contain Russell Westbrook and Durant – the Raptors’ failed miserably. OKC’s continuous penetration allowed them to get clean look after clean look from beyond the arc. When a player Andre Roberson can get comfortable letting it fly from beyond the arc – something is wrong with the defensive scheme.
The Raptors failed to make adjustments to prevent the onslaught from the Thunder, and allowed their sloppy offensive possessions to hinder their ability to guard in transition. If the Raptors want to truly join the conversation of being one of the NBA’s elite’s they can’t be caught slipping in transition so often. A half-court alley-oop pass with two players on you in transition should never be completed. This happened twice for the Raptors in the same quarter. With the playoffs just a few weeks away the Raptors have some serious shaping up to do when it comes to protecting their own.
Toronto lost the battle of the boards tonight against the Thunder, 53-40. Early on it was the hustle of Jonas Valanciunas on the offensive glass that helped Toronto momentarily rally back and claim the lead. JV finished the game with a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds. Although the team’s finished tied on the offensive glass with 12 rebounds apiece, it was the Thunder’s effort on the boards that really helped separate them from Toronto. It seemed as if every time the Raptors would make a run, the Thunder would either nail a tough shot or get a second chance opportunity that just took the soul out of the Raptors and their fans.
Game ball: Russell Westbrook
If it wasn’t for Steph Curry, my MVP would go to this guy right here – Russell Westbrook. Westbrook finished with yet another triple double – his 16th on the season. Westbrook finished with a line of 26 points 11 rebounds and 12 assists. Westbrook also led all players on the glass with his rebounding total.
He was the driving force behind the Thunder’s offence – using his ability to attack his defender and either finish at the rim or find a teammate for a high percentage look. Durant may get buckets, but Westbrook is what really fuels their team and gets them to play at the next level.