The Thunder’s play in recent weeks has been marked by miscommunication and unforced errors, which happened again Sunday in a 112-106 loss to the Toronto Raptors.
The first quarter against the Raptors seemed to buck that trend. Oklahoma City was playing smart, decisive basketball and the Raptors struggled to keep pace with the Thunder during the initial stanza of the game.
However, Toronto diligently cut into the deficit and put themselves in a pole position to win the game late.
The Thunder’s offense stagnated in the last five minutes of the game, and the Raptors were able to eke a huge win in the lottery race. The Thunder have a real chance of getting a top-3 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.
Dort’s play defined the first quarter and started the game on the right foot for OKC.
Lu was a game-time decision for the Thunder, but it was decided that he would play against the Raptors. Dort did not disappoint as he scored 21 points in the quarter on 7-for-7 shooting from the field.
Lu was torching the nets, and his play masked some of the Thunder’s weaknesses.
OKC was still too loose with the ball, and turnovers started to stack up early in the game. The Thunder eventually finished with 21 turnovers on the night.
The other notable highlight was Chris Boucher crossing up Aleksej Pokusevski. Boucher’s quick snap dropped Pokusevski and created a wide-open look for the Raptors forward. Pokusevski picked himself up and finished the first twelve minutes strongly.
The bench unit started the second quarter with a barrage of threes. Ty Jerome drained two outside shots effortlessly, and Roby got in on the action with another bomb from deep.
Those threes stretched the Thunder’s lead out, and the stingy defense meant that Oklahoma City had a comfortable lead early in the second quarter.
Towards the end of the second quarter, the offense slowed down, but the Thunder remained resolute defensively.
Pokusevski was at the center of the Thunder’s defensive efforts. Aleksej used his frame to deter and block shots at the rim constantly throughout the game. He eventually finished with 6 blocks, a career-high for Pokusevski.
Chris Boucher drained a buzzer-beater to close the first half, and the Thunder went into the break with a 7-point lead despite not really playing all that well.
The Thunder had a few needless turnovers in the first half, but the effects of the Thunder’s casual play were limited by the team’s hot shooting from outside.
The third quarter really slowed down in terms of pace, and Oklahoma City started to struggle offensively. It was a scrappy quarter characterized by turnovers and long-drawn-out possessions that ended in misses from the field.
The Thunder were able to keep the third quarter close by defending the rim really well. Pokusevski and Bazley locked down the interior and limited Toronto’s offensive options.
The final stanza hung in the balance, and the game went back and forth. Darius Bazley knocked down two threes at the start of the quarter, which shifted the momentum slightly.
The ball movement looked better, and Oklahoma City had found some offensive fluency for the first time since the second quarter.
The last six minutes of the game became a grind for the Thunder. The game was frequently stopped for time-outs, coach’s challenges, and reviews.
The game slowing down did not favor the Thunder. Toronto was able to get back on defense and frustrate the Thunder in the half-court.
Nick Nurse mixed aggressive blitzes with zone coverages during the last five minutes, and it became tough for the Thunder to score.
Dort could cut into Toronto’s lead with free throws at the stripe, but it was no good. Boucher drained a dagger that iced the game.
The Thunder head to Washington Monday night to play Russell Westbrook and the scorching hot Washington Wizards.