The Oklahoma City Thunder fell to the Toronto Raptors at home, 112-102. The Thunder had come into the game riding high after two convincing wins, but after a strong start to this game the Raptors, also Conference Finalists a year ago, elevated their collective game while the Thunder’s fell apart. OKC was outscored 68-48 in the pivotal two middle quarters, including giving up a staggering 42 points in the 2nd quarter alone. The loss drops the Thunder to 6-2 on the season.
The Thunder were led by Russell Westbrook’s 36 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists, but the stat line was fool’s gold as Westbrook also shot 9-26 from the floor, 3-12 from 3-point range, and committed 8 turnovers. Meanwhile, his counterpart DeMar DeRozan shredded the Thunder defense with 37 points on 13-22 shooting, including 11-15 from the free throw line. The only stabilizing factor in this game was Steven Adams’ 14-12 (8 ORB’s), including 8-8 from the free throw line.
The game was a sloppy affair from the Thunder, and their careless defense and unfocused offense appeared to be symptomatic of a team that may have thought they were a little further ahead on the curve than they actually are. After racing to an early lead, they let up on defense (just a little), allowing the Raptors to take a halftime lead. OKC followed up that defense-less effort with unusually careless play, which included a blown breakaway dunk by Andre Roberson and numerous missed shots at the rim by a number of players.
The Thunder to their credit did not give up, and following a refocused defensive effort, they made their move in the 4th quarter. Trailing by 13 to start, they slowly chipped away at the Raptors’ lead, never surrendering even as Toronto held them at an 8 point deficit with less than half the quarter to go.
Following two more Adams free throws, OKC found themselves down only 4 points with 4:30 remaining and an unlikely win in their crosshairs. Frustratingly, the Thunder fell back into their careless play at the worst time. Their defense caused a turnover, but Westbrook followed it by losing the ball out of bounds. Kyle Lowry pushed the lead back to 6, but Westbrook lost the ball again when Corey Joseph stripped him on a shot attempt. Following a Raptors free throw, Westbrook again made a poor decision by missing a too-quick 3-pointer. Lowry hit a 3 of his own, only for the Thunder to have Westbrook miss another long 3-pointer. The bad offensive choices left OKC in a 10 point deficit from which they could not recover.
In the aftermath, it is unfortunate that the Thunder could not put together a better showing on their home court, but this is the place they find themselves, farther than any expected, but still far to go. They face a rematch on Friday with the Clippers, who are likely still smarting from OKC’s win over them on LA’s home court. Recovery will have to start with the kind of defense that has earned them 6 wins but was so obviously absent tonight.