Thunder Find Their Groove Up North, Beat Raptors 116-109
The Oklahoma City Thunder (43-30) snapped a four-game losing streak on Friday night in Toronto, erasing a 13-point second half deficit to beat the Raptors (51-22) by a final score of 116-109. Paul George led the way for OKC with 28 points (9/17 FG, 5/10 3P), followed by Dennis Schroder’s crucial 26 points, six rebounds, and seven assists off the bench. Russell Westbrook recorded his 28th triple-double of the season with 18 points, 12 rebounds, and 13 assists — commanding a Thunder offense that shot 20-of-43 from long range (46.5%) and made 85 percent of their free throws to pick up a much needed win on the road.
The first half had a here we go again feel to it, as Toronto was blistering hot to open things up. Despite the Thunder forcing 11 turnovers in the first two quarters, the Raptors couldn’t miss — building an 11-point lead with 6:43 to go in the second quarter. Though the Thunder would draw within one with just over two minutes remaining in the half, the Raptors closed on a 9-2 run to take a 58-48 lead into the break. Toronto posted 59-57-100 shooting splits in the first half and got 41 combined points from the trio of Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, and Pascal Siakam. George’s 13 points led the Thunder in scoring, with Schroder adding 11 off the bench.
It was much of the same to open the third, as the Raptors routinely got to the free throw line to take a 76-63 advantage with 5:23 to go. Facing their biggest deficit of the night, the Thunder went to work — shooting 5-of-8 from long range to close the quarter on a 20-4 run. All in all, OKC shot 8-of-13 from downtown in the third, outscoring Toronto 35-22 to take an 83-80 lead into the fourth. Jerami Grant and Terrance Ferguson were particularly instrumental in the rally, combining to shoot 4-of-5 from three to help bring the Thunder back.
The Raptors regained the lead at the 9:19 mark of the fourth quarter, taking a 90-88 advantage off a Serge Ibaka tip-in. However, Schroder and George weren’t to be denied, combining for 22 points on 57 percent shooting in the final 12 minutes, putting the Thunder up by 10 with 5:42 to go. The Raptors clawed back to make OKC sweat in the final minutes, getting as close as four with two minutes remaining. Luckily for the Thunder, they were able to maintain the distance and hit the free throws needed to ice it.
George was the high man for OKC with 28 points, followed by Schroder’s 26, and 19 for Jerami Grant on a career-high five makes from long range. They were joined in double figures by Westbrook’s 18, and Ferguson’s 11. The Thunder forced 22 turnovers and the 20 made 3-pointers is the second-best effort of the season from distance.
Leonard put up 37 points in the losing effort, with Pascal Siakam adding 25 on 9-of-14 shooting. Toronto shot 50 percent from the field, and hit 13 threes on 52 percent shooting. However, they were outscored by 17 in the second half to end the night with a loss.
Throwback. You could be forgiven for thinking tonight was yet another instance of the Thunder falling flat — after all, a 13-point deficit in the third quarter will do that. However, OKC outscored Toronto 53-33 from the 5:23 mark of the third quarter on, getting valuable contributions from just about everywhere in the process. With George having more success against Kawhi, Schroder lighting it up off the bench, Westbrook triple-doubling, and threes falling at a ridiculous rate, the final 17 minutes looked more like the January Thunder than whatever we’ve been seeing lately. More importantly, Grant and Ferguson were crucial in the comeback and made some big shots when needed. The Thunder will need plenty more of that heading into the playoffs.
Russell Giveth/Russell Taketh Away. Westbrook had 13 of the Thunder’s 30 assists on the evening, his best night distributing the basketball this side of the All-Star break. Defensively, he swiped four steals as OKC turned 22 Raptor turnovers into 20 points for the cause. Rough night from the floor, but Russ took care of the basketball (3 TO) and the Thunder were 18 points better with him on the floor. I submit no complaints.
Feeling the Love’s. The Thunder picked up their first win since adding the Love’s logo to the front of the jerseys. One can only assume they’ll never lose again.
Holding Steady. With the win, the Thunder remain fifth in the Western Conference. Nine regular season games to go — the Grizzlies are next up on Monday in Memphis.