Raptors rip apart Thunder defense

Photo by Torrey Purvey


By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY– The Thunder came into their matchup with the Toronto Raptors carrying a reputation for stingy defense. In the first seven games of the year, Oklahoma City gave up more than 100 points in regulation only once.
The Raptors didn’t seem to care about the reputation. They went right at the heart of the Thunder and pulled out an 112-102 victory Wednesday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“You have to have toughness to go against this team,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said of the Thunder. “This is one of the toughest teams in the league. Billy (Donovan) has created a team that is hard-nosed, a tough place to play. You have to have a strong constitution to be able to come in here and compete with the Thunder.”
Toronto’s Demar DeRozan made 13 of 22 shots from the field and 11 of 15 from the free-throw line as he scored a game-high 37 points. He came into the night averaging nine free-throw attempts per game.
Kyle Lowry had 19 points, 13 assists and nine rebounds for Toronto (5-2). Patrick Patterson came off the bench to score 13 points.
“A couple of guys started knocking down shots,” DeRozan said. “Once Pat (Patterson) gets going knocking down his shot, it opens up for the next person. We’re going to continue to get better.”
Russell Westbrook paced the Thunder (6-2) with 36 points and seven assists, and he added seven rebounds. Victor Oladipo scored 18 points, and Steven Adams added 14 points and 12 boards in Oklahoma City’s first loss in five home games this season.
“Little things like us turning the ball over led to fastbreaks,” Oladipo said. “Rotations were not great today. Little things like that we can correct.”
With 5:37 left in the fourth quarter, Westbrook hit two free throws that pulled the Thunder within six points. However, DeRozan was fouled by Oladipo and buried two free throws.
Westbrook and Adams scored the next five points, and Oklahoma City trailed 99-95 with 4:50 left.
The Thunder came up with a defensive stop and had the ball with a chance to cut the deficit to at least two points. Westbrook then lost the ball while going up for a layup, and Lowry hit a jumper before DeRozan made one of two free throws.
Westbrook missed a long 3-pointer that led to another Lowry 3-pointer, pushing the lead to 105-95.
A fastbreak layup by DeRozan gave Toronto a 12-point advantage with 2:44 left. That was enough for the Raptors, who held on the rest of the way.
“The key was just continue to get stops and give ourselves the best opportunity to get good looks,” DeRozan said. “As long as we did that, we felt like we had a great chance.”
The Raptors shot 51.8 percent from the field and 42.3 percent from behind the arc.
The Thunder normally dominate on the boards but had only a 39-35 advantage over the active Raptors, who shot 41.9 percent from the floor.
Oklahoma City unpacked its defense early. Each shot the Raptors took was contested. That included Andre Roberson shadowing DeRozan all over the court.
When Roberson went to the bench, the Thunder brought in Kyle Singler to hound DeRozan. The Raptors didn’t score their first basket until 7:19 remained in the first quarter.
However, behind a 42-point second quarter, Toronto slowly climbed back and took a 62-55 halftime lead.
Oklahoma City’s offense continued to struggle after halftime. The player movement was stagnant and the ball often stayed on one side of the court.
Westbrook tried to force the action and take over, but the Raptors made him play in a crowd of defenders that caused bad shots and turnovers.
The Raptors led by 13 points at the end of third quarter as Lowry and Patterson found their touch and knocked down midrange jumpers and 3-pointers.
The Thunder’s inability to close out quarters strong on both sides of the court hurt them throughout the night.
“We started making mistakes at the wrong time, and they were able to capitalize on them,” Westbrook said. “They hit some threes, got in transition off our turnovers, capitalized off mistakes.”

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