The Toronto Raptors have improved to 5-0 with a 103-98 victory over the Thunder in Oklahoma City. The Thunder drops to 3-2 with the loss, after a 3-0 start to the season. On the second night of a back-to-back, the Raptors were very impressive in their second game of a four-game road trip.
The game began with Oklahoma City jumping out to an 11-4 lead early. The Raptors’ offense was struggling mightily, and Thunder stars, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, were playing at a high level. Coming off a tough road win in Dallas the night before, the Raptors looked flat. Not only were they on a back-to-back, but the Raptors were on the road in a hostile environment against one of the most talented teams in the NBA. They could have easily let this one slide, but Toronto displayed an outstanding performance of resiliency and toughness in a convincing victory.
Raptors’ star DeMar DeRozan was incredible in this matchup. The seven-year guard was extremely productive by driving into the lane and drawing contact, earning himself a total of 15 free-throw attempts in the game. DeRozan capitalized on 14 of these foul shots to go with seven field goals for 28 total points. He also added five rebounds, three assists, and two steals to help seal the victory for Toronto.
Toronto struggled early but stuck with it, and by halftime, the Raptors had clawed back to a one-point lead heading into the break. To begin the half, however, Oklahoma City bounced back and quickly found themselves with an eight-point lead once again.
From this point on, the Raptors couldn’t quite seem to gain enough traction to take the lead and pull away. Every time Toronto would make a little run, the Thunder appeared to respond quickly with a big shot or run of their own. With just 2:11 remaining, the Raptors were down six points, but two key Valanciunas free throws sparked a 12 to one run that finally pulled Toronto in front.
After they finally pulled ahead, all the Raptors needed to do to seal the victory was execute their free throws and that is exactly what they did. In the final two and a half minutes, the Raptors went a perfect 8 for 8 from the line. The defense came up huge in the fourth as well, holding the Thunder to 17 points while Toronto scored 30 themselves.
Leading the way for the Thunder were Westbrook and Durant, as expected. While Westbrook struggled with his shot, the explosive point guard made his impact by distributing the basketball. Westbrook finished with 22 points, 16 assists, and five rebounds in the losing effort. Durant was his usual, efficient self, tallying 27 points on 55 percent shooting to go with seven rebounds, four assists, three blocks, and two steals. Even though the dynamic duo played well, they seemed to struggle in crunch time, including a critical missed free throw down the stretch by Durant.
Also coming up big for the Raptors was Jonas Valanciunas. The big man hit all five of his free-throw attempts, including four of which came up big in the final stages of the game. Valanciunas finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds on 6 of 9 shooting. The four-year center has improved significantly this season, and it was evident tonight.
DeMarre Carroll and Kyle Lowry poured in 13 and 15, respectively, to make up the majority of points for the Raptors along with DeRozan and Valanciunas. Canadian guard Cory Joseph was key off the bench as well. The former San Antonio Spur added nine points and four assists on 57 percent shooting in 25 minutes, but most importantly, Joseph did an outstanding job of containing Westbrook in the fourth quarter.
The Raptors will continue their road trip and head to Orlando to take on the Orlando Magic on Friday at 7 pm EST while the Thunder heads to Chicago for a quick, one-game road trip on Thursday in an attempt to steal one from the Bulls like the Raptors did to them.