The Oklahoma City Thunder picked up their most impressive win since the All-Star Break and one of the most impressive wins of the season as they defeated the Raptors in Toronto 132-125 Sunday afternoon. The victory marks six in a row for Oklahoma City, and it helps their quest for earning a homecourt advantage in the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs.
The first quarter was full of offense and almost no defense as both teams were scorching hot shooting the ball. The Thunder starters shot an incredible 16/17 as a group, and Steven Adams led the way with 14 points on 7/7 shooting, a career-high for points in a quarter for the big man.
Carmelo Anthony and Paul George added in seven points each, and Russell Westbrook tallied six points and six assists, but Oklahoma City struggled to defend the Raptors around the perimeter. Toronto shot 5/8 from three, and after twelve minutes of play, Oklahoma City held a 40-34 lead.
The second quarter was all struggles to start for Oklahoma City as the second unit was outplayed on nearly every possession, but a talented Raptors bench poured it on the Thunder. Midway through the period, Toronto had outscored the Thunder 20-4 before Oklahoma City’s starters began to turn things around. In second half of the second period, the Thunder starters turned things back around, and despite not shooting quite as well as the first quarter, they were able to retake the lead 66-64 at the break.
The third quarter did not start off so great for the Thunder as the starters appeared unable to continue with the success that they experienced in the first half. In the first two minutes of the period, the Raptors went on a quick 9-2 run to take a five-point lead, but about five minutes into the second half, the Thunder was able to turn things around. Oklahoma City quickly retook the lead, and for the back half of the third quarter, the teams exchanged leads a number of times. Russell Westbrook had an incredible quarter with nine points, four rebounds, and four assists; Carmelo Anthony poured in eight points; and Steven Adams added seven of his own, but with just one quarter play, the Thunder trailed the Raptors 98-97.
The fourth quarter was a scary start as Billy Donovan went with his infamous all bench lineup to start the period. The Raptors looked like they might be ready to take over and blow the game wide open, and right as the crowd started to rally behind the home team, the Thunder’s bench was able to quiet them enough to stick around until Oklahoma City’s starters could return.
Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams would re-enter the game at the 7:44 mark with the Thunder trailing 108-107. Westbrook would put on a show for the remainder of the game, scoring 17 of the Thunder’s final 25 points. He would finish with his fifth-consecutive triple-double, his 22nd of the season, and the 102nd of his career with 37 points, 14 assists, and 13 rebounds. Adams had an impressive day as well with 25 points, eight rebounds, and four assists; Paul George tallied 22 points, five rebounds, three assists, and three steals; Carmelo Anthony had 15 points; and Corey Brewer had 10, scoring in double digits for the sixth time in seven games.
3 Quick Thoughts
- Russell Westbrook is Ramping Up at the Right Time: For the last two seasons, the Thunder has played in a very similar manner: they can only go as far as Russell Westbrook goes. During Oklahoma City’s 6-game win streak, Westbrook has had five triple-doubles, and he was very close to getting one in the game where he didn’t. Westbrook loves to step up in the face of opposition, and with Oklahoma City’s increasingly difficult schedule to finish out the season, he appears to be doing just that. He is going to have to maintain a high level of play for the Thunder to finish strong and head into the playoffs on a high note, but he seems to be up to the challenge.
- Steven Adams is Integral to the Thunder’s Success: Steven Adams was the game’s leading scorer with 14 points after the first quarter. He was well on his way to a new career-high, and despite tweaking his ankle in the first half and taking a shot to the groin in the third quarter, he still finished with 25 points, just two shy of his career-high. Adams is going to have to stay healthy, which has been easier said than done lately, but without a doubt, whenever he gets involved in the offense early in games, teams have to make adjustments to stop him, which opens up the rest of the floor.
- Defense Still Needs Improvement: Oklahoma City was the better team today, but Toronto was able to pick apart the Thunder’s defense. The Raptors shot 15/30 (50%) from three, and it kept Toronto in the game. On top of their sharp-shooting from deep, the Raptors shot 56.8% overall from the floor. Oklahoma City was able to force Toronto into 19 turnovers, but the Thunder has got to do a better job on the defensive end, specifically at guarding the perimeter.
Shipping Up to Boston
The Oklahoma City Thunder now heads to Boston where they will take on the Celtics on Tuesday night. The Celtics are second in the East right now with a 47-22 record, but they have been dealing with a number of injuries lately. The Celtics defeated the Thunder 101-94 in Oklahoma City on November 3rd in a game where the Thunder led by 18 points. Since then, both teams have experience varying amount of success.Tip-off is set for 7 PM CT and will be televised on TNT and FSOK. The game will also be broadcast on the radio on WWLS 98.1 FM.
Be sure to check out our most recent episode of Thunder Things with the Thunder Guys.
Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter & Instagram, and like us on Facebook.