Well, it was bound to happen at some point in the season. It happens to the best teams in any organization.
No matter how hard you try, and no matter how much it screams from the back of your mind that no team should be overlooked, you’re just not going to get as jacked for certain teams as you will for others. That’s why the threat of the trapdoor constantly looms for even the best of squads. That’s the philosophy behind the NFL phrase, “Any given Sunday”. That’s probably also the biggest reason why you rarely see winless seasons by teams in any organization, because even the mightiest teams find themselves caught by at least one trapdoor game per season. It almost never fails.
The Raptors successfully trapdoored the Thunder last night, after the Thunder had narrowly avoided an Orlando Magic trapdoor exactly one week prior.
I’m not sure what it is about the back-to-back nights, but I’m beginning to notice that if the Thunder have any weaknesses this season, one of their biggest is their performance when asked to play back-to-back nights. Out of four total back-to-backs this season, the Thunder have only swept one. Not only that, but the Clippers-Warriors back-to-back resulted in the Thunder dropping both games. Grant Long said last night that it’s hard to look for ways to improve when you’re winning games. Well, I think I’ve found an area they need to focus on.
The 1st quarter stayed close pretty much the entire way. The largest lead for either team was 4, which is actually what the Raptors were leading by heading into quarter #2 (25-21).
The 2nd quarter stayed close as well. The Thunder’s largest lead was 5, while the Raptors extended their’s to 7 at one point. By halftime, the Raptors had outscored the Thunder for the second straight quarter, and were enjoying a 62-56 advantage.
The 3rd quarter saw some serious clamp-down by the Thunder defense, as shortly after the Raptors went up 9 early in the quarter (65-56), the Thunder rattled off a 12-2 run to reclaim the lead 68-67 with just under 8 minutes remaining in the period. After 4 subsequent unanswered Raptor points, the Thunder started a 14-0 run that pushed their lead to 11 (82-71) with just over 3 minutes left in the quarter. By quarter’s end, the Thunder had held the Raptors to a mere 13 points for the quarter, and were entering the 4th up 84-75.
Then it was the Raptors who decided to clamp down defensively. Halfway through the final quarter, the Raptor’s hit a 10-0 run to allow them to claim a 98-93 lead. The Thunder simply failed to respond, as they only managed to score 14 points for the entire quarter. The Raptors become the first team to escape Chesapeake Energy Arena with the victory this season by a score of 104-98. This win makes it four consecutive on the road for the Raptors, who improve to 11-14 for the year, while dropping the Thunder to 22-5.
Just looking at the box score, it seems like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were the only Thunder players who bothered to show up last night. Westbrook’s 27 points, and Durant’s 24 points were the only stats the Thunder reached double digits in last night.
By contrast, five Raptor players reached double-digit points, and Amir Johnson was my vote for Player of the Game with his 17 points and 13 rebounds. Kyle Lowry’s 22 points led the Raptors in scoring, while DeMar DeRozan dropped 17, Jonas Valanciunas added 13, and John Salmons contributed 14 from the Raptor bench.
They only have a couple of days to lick their wounds, as Christmas Day features a road contest against the New York Knicks. The game comes to us from the world-famous Madison Square Garden in New York, NY. Tip-off is scheduled for 1:30 pm CST, and will be broadcast via ABC and WWLS The Sports Animal.