In one of the most improbable results of the season, the Oklahoma City Thunder have stormed Toronto and obliterated the Raptors, 119-100. Russell Westbrook got yet another triple-double, with 26 points, 11 rebounds, and 12 assists. Westbrook's offensive game was out of control, as it seemed he could get to the rim at will. It wasn't necessary for Westbrook to take a single shot from mid-range tonight, and Westbrook only took three threes. Kevin Durant was a shade away from a triple-double himself, scoring 34 points with 8 rebounds and 8 assists. From mid-range, KD kind of struggled. The larger Raptor power forwards could use their bulk to force some misses from KD, who spent a lot of time at power forward. But Durant was clever enough to get to the rim several times, and was a decent 3 of 10 from long range.
With OKC's stars having such so-so nights, how were the Thunder able to win so easily? The high assist count for both stars should be very revealing. The Raptors were giving up open shots to players that weren't Westbrook or Durant. Toronto's main priority seemed to be protecting the rim. I can't tell you how many times I saw Adams or Kanter trying to score amongst three Raptors in the paint. And OKC's role players stepped up. Serge Ibaka went 6 of 12 on the night, almost entirely from 17+ feet. Dion Waiters was 6 of 10 from the field, and 3 of 4 beyond the arc. There were some drives from Waiters, but he mostly hit his open threes. Even Andre Roberson got into the act, going 2 of 2 on corner threes and scoring 3 more points at the line.
At this point, you might be thinking that I'm forgetting about Steven Adams' big performance. Far from it. Adams had 10 points, mostly on extremely tough finishes around the rim. But Adams was also crucial on the defensive end, holding Jonas Valaciunas to just 5 of 13 on the night. Most of Valanciunas made baskets came in transition, or in switches with Ibaka. Adams was also critical at deterring numerous DeRozan and Lowry drives to the hoop. Heck, Adams even played a hand in slowing down Toronto's offense during their fourth quarter run.
But the Thunder's defense doesn't start and end with Adams. Andre Roberson deserves a lot of kudos as well, as he was generally able to keep DeRozan from getting free shots at the basket. DeRozan did shake Roberson a couple of times, but Roberson was clearly playing to his strengths. Dion Waiters had a couple of stops on DeRozan and Lowry, and spent time defending both. Westbrook's defense of Lowry wasn't very conservative. But it paid off, as Russ was able to force a number of turnovers and long misses.
Raps make a late run, but OKC's starters hold strong
So, that fourth quarter run I mentioned. The Thunder's bench didn't really step up tonight, aside from Dion Waiters. Enes Kanter's defense was actually his best trait in his 20 minutes of play. Generally. Kanter gave up too many offensive rebounds and just couldn't find any space on offense. Bismack Biyombo really played some physical, intense defense on Kanter. Randy Foye missed a pull up dribble in shot, and had a kick to Waiters. Singler was a ghastly 0-4, missing an open corner three and getting blocked by Biyombo at the rim. Singler did have an assist to Waiters, but was terrible on defense against DeRozan.
But really, I wouldn't rag on the Thunder bench too hard. The Raptors have some amazing scoring guards, and the Thunder needed to play a more defensively solvent lineup to succeed. The offense came generally pretty consistently, as the bench players didn't get many shot attempts. KD did struggle during the rare stretch though.
Anyway, the Raptors were able to take what was a 23 point deficit to start the fourth quarter and whittle it down to 14 with about 8:14 to go. That's pretty close to making it a basketball game. It should be no surprise then that Westbrook was off the floor, and Foye and Waiters were trying to run the offense. But when Westbrook and Adams were able to return, things generally stabilized.
- Cameron Payne got 3 minutes, and I honestly didn't even notice he was on the floor. Payne is dealing with a foot injury, and was in a boot pre-game. Donovan will be appropriately careful with Payne's minutes in the coming games.
- The Raptors' bench shot 14-28....They've got some versatile, athletic power forwards.
- Anthony Morrow got a surprise 7 minutes, and hit a really quick touch three in the second quarter. Defense was needed tonight, but I definitely wouldn't mind stretches of Morrow moving forward.
- Westbrook rebounded his own free throw for a score.
- This was Westbrooks 16th triple-double, putting him just a game behind Magic Johnson's 88-89 season. 8 games left to play for OKC.
- The Thunder are six losses ahead of the Clippers, pending the Clips result tonight against Boston. The Thunder should clinch the seed within 2-4 games if all goes well.
- Serge Ibaka's defense on Patrick Patterson was generally pretty good.
- Norman Powell's shots were mostly open, but he did hit a tough layup and challenge KD a lot.
- Big blowout win, but 37 minutes for KD, 34 for Westbrook, and 33 for Ibaka. Here's hoping OKC's seed is locked soon.
- "You remember those little tootsie rolls? Those little small ones?" -Michael Cage
Thunder Wonder: Russell Westbrook, sooooo many dunks
Thunder Down Under: Steven Adams, all-time great rim protector and finisher
Thunder Blunder: Kyle Singler, 0fer
Thunder Plunderer: Norman Powell, 18 points on 7 of 13 shooting, and superb defense of KD for a second round pick
Next Game: At the Detroit Pistons, Tuesday, March 29th, 6:30 PM Central Standard Time.
What did you think of tonight's game? Drop a comment and let us know!