No, the Raptors aren’t dead. Far from it. But for much of tonight’s game in Toronto, they looked like they were far from their final form. The Thunder owned the first quarter, 29-24; the Thunder owned the second quarter, 29-24. Third quarter, you ask? 39-22. Fourth quarter, and there wasn’t much point in bringing out the starters for the stretch. Despite that, all five Thunder starters made it into double figures, and Russell Westbrook had the by-now-usual triple-double (24-10-16). Oklahoma City 123, Toronto 102, tying the season series at 1-1.
The offensive barrage notwithstanding, what won this game was defense: DeMar DeRozen (22 points) was hardly DeFended into insignificance, but the other four Raptors in double figures managed only 10 to 13. (Serge Ibaka had 10.) And guard Cory Joseph somehow compiled a -30 over just under 30 minutes. And the Raptors’ prowess at the three-point line seemed to have taken leave of them: they hit only five of 20, and four of those were scored by the reserves. This is perhaps not what one expects from a team ten games over .500.
Then again, the Thunder only just crawled back to ten games over .500, and are now a game up on Memphis for the #6 seed in the West. (If anyone cares, the Brooklyn Nets, thrashed by the Thunder on Tuesday last, are the first team eliminated from the playoffs.) If they can keep shooting over 50 percent — not to mention a whopping 14-25 from beyond the arc — they might gain some ground on the frontrunners: Golden State (of course) and San Antonio (one game back).
And I’m throwing this in because it’s funny:
Earlier this week Steph Curry said James Harden should win the MVP over Russell Westbrook. Today RW responds: "who's he?" pic.twitter.com/kqeiWJiMrC
— Faizal Khamisa (@SNFaizalKhamisa) March 16, 2017
The honey badger of point guards, Westbrook is.