The Toronto Raptors fought, but were still edged out by the Oklahoma City Thunder 104-108. It’s safe to say that the time to panic is upon us. The Raptors have now lost eight of their last nine games. Their only win in this horrid stretch has come against the Philadelphia 76ers. When a team in such a funk takes on a team led by a team led by a franchise player on a historic tear of dominance in the Thunder, it usually isn’t a recipe for success.
The Raptors came out impressively in the first half, shooting about 50% and leading the Thunder by three. The team, however reverted back to their struggles in the second half, forcing up tough shots and getting easily blown by on defence. The team would end up making a run at the end that would ultimately cut down.
The concerning struggles of Raptors All-Star Kyle Lowry continued in this game as he put up only 14 points on 5-15 shooting only dishing out 5 assists in over 40 minutes of work. He has been taking a great amount of bad shots and no longer seems to have that same command of games he had in the beginning of the season. Truly hard to watch.
The Raptors finished the game shooting only 42.9% from the field and only 40% from beyond the arc. There were many moments in the game where Raptors fans across the country let out collective groans at the questionable shot selection, particularly by Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. In addition, when your starting bigs only score 14 points on only 15 shots, your team is one that is easily shut down. The performance of Terrence Ross was a notable bright spot. Ross put up 20 points and hit a season high six threes. If Ross can somehow make this kind of performance a regular thing, it would go a LONG way in breaking the Raptors out of their serious struggles.
The Raptors, simply put did not effectively defend the Thunder. They gave up a blistering 51% shooting on 30 assists. Of course, it certainly didn’t help that the man running the offence for the Thunder is on another plane of existence. The Raptors however also allowed the Thunder’s bigs Enes Kanter and Serge Ibaka to run amok in the paint as they both shot well over 50%. The Raptors did force 18 turnovers, but that is mostly a bi-product of Westbrook’s frenetic style of play.
As they did in their last game against the Hornets, the Raptors got completely out hustled and out muscled on the boards. The final number was 49-33. The addition of Enes Kanter in place of Kendrick Perkins has looked to be a masterful move by GM Sam Presti as the Turkish big led the way with 12 rebounds.
Game ball: Russell Westbrook
Expecting anyone else? Few players have ever had a stretch quite like the one the UCLA product is currently on. Westbrook put up 30 points 11 rebounds and 17 assists, putting up his fourth triple double in the last five games. It’s Russell’s world ladies and gentleman, we’re just living in it.