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Thunder’s first home loss to Raptors, 112-102

Well that was an ugly game.

The Thunder struggled for the most part to generate offense for the last three quarters and couldn’t capitalize on the momentum they built late in the game when it mattered. Steven Adams cut the Raptors lead in the fourth to 4 points, but the following four possessions for the Thunder were two really ugly turnovers and two quick and unnecessary three-pointers from Westbrook.

The momentum was palpable in the Peake towards the end of the game and a comeback seemed imminent, but the Thunder can only win so many games with Russ trying to bail the team out. Close games are fun to watch and games where a team wins emphatically with a surprising comeback are even more fun to watch—ask the Cavaliers, Cubs and Donald Trump. However exciting that may be, the Thunder offense, especially late in the game is going to have to be more disciplined because no team can win 82 games with such a predictable offensive mindset. Tonight’s marks the first home loss for the Thunder of the season. The Thunder are in the middle of a five game home stretch—the longest of the season for OKC and now is the time to start forming good habits.

DeMar DeRozan has been on fire this season and currently leads the league in PPG—tonight was no different with his 37 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals. DeRozan consistently hit tough jumper after tough jumper and it didn’t matter who guarded him. He did this while not making a single three pointer, which just doesn’t happen hardly in today’s NBA. Roberson has been playing defense this season at an All NBA Defensive level, but tonight the offense of DeRozan beat the defense of Roberson.

The most encouraging takeaway from tonight was the effort level of the Thunder overall. It’s clear that the Thunder aren’t afraid to hustle and play tough defense. Westbrook and Adams play extremely hard and are intense competitors and that’s becoming the identity of the team. The offensive struggles were what lost them this game, but the defense and effort level almost got them back in it. The Thunder team this year can’t play like they did last year in late game scenarios, that’s not gonna work for any sort of sustained success.

Other observations from tonight’s game:

  • Adams is becoming a really reliable free throw shooter. He’s made 16 of 17 from the line this season. Eat your heart out DeAndre Jordan.
  • The Thunder certainly could’ve used Cameron Payne tonight. OKC pretty much always needs outside shooting and tonight they could’ve used a third guard to play late in the fourth. The Thunder played a three guard lineup with Christon, Westbrook and Oladipo to match up against the Raptors playing small, but Semaj offensively doesn’t fit in well with Russ and Oladipo.
  • Russ had a really nice stat line with 36 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 steal and 2 blocks, but unfortunately also had 8 messy turnovers. His style of play is so aggressive and fun to watch, but his drives to the lane tonight were sloppy and didn’t help the offensive flow.
  • The Thunder started the game with a 12-0 run and passed the ball really well. Adams and Sabonis are gifted passers, hopefully there’s more where that came from.
  • Russ had an amazing block tonight on Cory Joseph tonight in the fourth. I need more of that in my life.

Next up: Home against the Clippers Friday