An instant classic ends in tragedy.

Let’s just get this out of the way — last night was a kick to the stomach.

In the abstract, losing a double overtime game to the Oklahoma City Thunder by one point is an accomplishment for this undermanned Raptors team. The Thunder are, at worst, the fourth best team in the NBA (pre-Westbrook’s injury) this season. They boast the second best record in a historically competitive Western Conference. They’ve got two of the NBA’s top-2o players, including one Kevin Durant, who is challenging LeBron for the title of best player on planet Earth. Double-overtime? You might know him as the man who dropped 51 points, 12 rebounds, 7 assists and 33980230 daggers on the Raptors last night. I’m just happy they didn’t get trampled!

  • Quick Reaction: Raptors 118, Thunder 119
  • Apologies if you’re having trouble with the GIFs. GFYcat is a bit slow this morning. They should load within a minute. If not, refresh the page.

But it wasn’t just losing in double overtime. It was the expectation of the unexpected that hurt. It was holding the win in-between your hands, basking in its serendipitous glory, accidentally dropping it, and seeing it shatter upon impact with the cold hard floor. The Raptors, after fighting so valiantly through 52 minutes of meticulous, half-court basketball, led by 5 points with 22 seconds left in the game. And they lost. 5 points! 22 seconds!

Chalk one up to the growing legend of Kevin Durant.

On their previous possession, the Raptors calmly in-bounded the ball, and put it into the hands of Kyle Lowry. Being the cerebral player that he is, Lowry took his time, counting on the clock as his friend. He played to the odds. At a certain point in the game, any lead starts to look safe. Lowry gambled on arbitrage. He created a mismatch, drew Ibaka as his defender, and whittled down the shot clock. Finally, with a mere four ticks left, Lowry executed a hurried cross-over, before launching a half-hearted airball.

The Thunder put the ball in Durant’s hands, and found a counter to the Raptors’ strategy of double-teaming. Durant drew his defenders, and created a good look for Derek Fisher on the three-point line. Yes, I’m talking about 39 year old Derek Fisher in his 16th NBA season. Derek Fisher, in 2014 splashed home a patented soul-crushing, game-saving, rainbow-arching three. The Raptors’ lead was cut to two.

Regardless, most two-point leads are safe when you have the ball with 9 seconds left. Unless of course, John Salmons is in the game.

For the record, I think Salmons is a serviceable NBA player. At the ripe old age of 34, Salmons’ career is on its hind legs, but he still has a functional NBA skill-set. So long as he’s provided with sufficient rest (ie: not back-to-back), he can handle the ball, he’s serviceable in the pick-and-roll, he has the length to adequately defend most threes. He’s obviously nearing the end of his career, but he still has a place on most NBA rosters, just not last night.

John Salmons had an awful night long before his abominable sequence to end the game, and that’s after adjusting for the difficulties of defending Durant. He shot 0-for-4 from the field — all open three pointers — and provided minimal resistance against Durant. Although he provided zero dividends with his performance, Dwane Casey elected to play Salmons over Ross, de Colo or Fields down the stretch, and it burned him.

With 9 seconds left in the game, Salmons inexplicably tossed the ball right to Jeremy Lamb, who tipped it to — guess who? — Kevin Durant’. Thankfully, Salmons managed to contest Durant’s shot, and secure the rebound. He was then fouled, and headed to the free-throw line to shoot two free throws. Two would have secured a win. One would have forced a third overtime. Zero was the result.

The rest of the story is the stuff of legends. The Thunder cleared out for Durant, who calmly sunk a three right over the outstretched arms of Amir Johnson with 1.7 seconds left. The Raptors drew up a play for DeRozan on the other end, but his hurried turn-around jumper caught nothing but air. Somehow, against all the odds, the Thunder pulled out the victory.

It was a pity that the Raptors lost, because they did a lot of things right. For starters, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan were excellent as usual, scoring 25 and 33 points respectively. DeRozan’s effort was particularly notable, as he drew Andre Roberson as his defender, and promptly got him to foul out in just over 14 minutes of play. He shot his fair share of fall-away jumpshots, but you can’t argue with the results, as he shot 15-of-16 from the free-throw line, which brings him to a total of 43 free-throw attempted over his last three games.

But it was the role players who stepped up, and nearly managed to get the win last night. The much-maligned Greivis Vasquez, notorious for his YOLO Vasquez plays, enjoyed his best game as a Raptor. He single-handedly carried the second unit on offense, and worked well with the starters in crunch-time. Playing against Derek Fisher mitigated his defensive shortcomings, and his presence in the two point guard lineup allowed Lowry to roam off-ball, and spot up to great effect. He scored 21 points on 9-of-11 shooting from the field, and only turned the ball over once in 31 minutes of play. Unfortunately, he fouled out in double-overtime. The verdict, apparently, was that he fouled Durant’s superstardom.

And I would be remiss had I not mentioned the efforts of Amir Johnson, who played his best game of the year. He was noticeably energized, and looked as healthy as he’s ever been. The added mobility allowed him to effectively rotate on defense, which culminated in 5 blocks to his credit. He also crashed the offensive glass effectively, and tipped in a number of failed Raptors layups.

In fact, he was so mobile that Dwane Casey elected to pin him onto Durant, which actually seemed to work. Amir refused to bite on Durant’s pump-fakes (unlike Salmons), and he was strong enough to impede Durant’s drive to the basket (unlike Ross). It sounds crazy to praise his defensive efforts when his counterpart scored 51 points on the night, but Amir genuinely did a great job. As the saying goes, great offense trumps good defense.

A mobile Amir Johnson also opened up the floor offensively. The Thunder elected to blitz the ball-handler, which left Amir Johnson the option to short roll into the lane without much resistance. Amir alertly slipped the screen when the traps came, and made himself available for pocket passes out of the double. He would then catch the ball, and either attack the basket, or find open shooters.

Alas, their efforts were not enough to overcome Durant’s 51, and the ineptitude of the officiating crew. Normally, I hate chastising referees. Officiating an NBA game is a tremendously difficult task, and too often fans wrongly mistake human error for conspiracy. But last night, the whistles were most certainly in favor of OKC. The number of fouls and free-throws attempted were roughly the same, but that only tells half the story. This call on Vasquez (his 6th of the game) summed up their night.

It’s a damn shame. A few bounces (or whistles) goes their way, and the Raptors win this game. Instead, they lose for the third time in four games, and sit only 1.5 games up on Brooklyn for the Atlantic Division crown, and a slim half-game up on Chicago for third in the Eastern Conference.

Assorted Game Notes:

  • Russell Westbrook left the game in the third quarter after Kyle Lowry crashed into his thrice surgically repaired right knee (video here). After the game, Westbrook claimed that he’s pain-free, and will be evaluated sometime today.
  • Nando de Colo is officially in the rotation, as it seems. He missed all three of his field goal attempts in his 7 minutes of play, but did manage to drop a pretty dime to Amir Johnson for a dunk. He’s a crafty player who can passably shoot. Perhaps it isn’t a bad idea to award him some of Salmons’ minutes
  • Once again, Terrence Ross was invisible on the court. He can be excused for failing to check Durant, but the Raptors need him to consistently produce on offense, and 2 points on 1-for-9 shooting isn’t going to cut it.
  • Dwane Casey ran a successful ATO play! This should be noted! He drew up a pin-down for Lowry, who drained the triple to tie the game in regulation.
  • Not to pile on Salmons, but he was terrible in every aspect of the game, including on defense. He repeatedly bit on Durant’s pump-fakes on closeouts, which culminated in free-throws.
  • Dwane Casey’s strategy of trapping Durant with two defenders whenever he crossed half-court was ingenious. It took the Thunder until the very last play to figure out that “1-4, iso-Durant” was better than “Durant passes the ball to Jeremy Lamb”.
  • More praise for Dwane Casey, who elected to nail Chuck Hayes to the bench, and stick to a three-man rotation of Johnson-Valanciunas-Hansbrough.
  • Speaking of Hansbrough, he drew a technical foul on Kevin Durant (15th of the season), which was unarguably his biggest contribution last night.

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  • GetLicks

    Not much you can do when Durant turns on game genie. Amir played amazing defence on him all game, but no one on the planet could have stopped KD last night. Only thing you can control is taking care of the ball and hitting FTs. Salmons was way too slack with the ball, inexcusable for someone who’s been in the league so long.

    I’m getting worried at this team’s record in OT and very tight games, will not bode well if we face a veteran team in the playoffs.

    • K.J.P

      There is something you can do when Durant turns on the game genie, the Raptors did it last night. We (John Salmons) just made mistakes in the last 10 seconds of the game. We would not be talking about how clutch KD is if he hits that 3 pointer to lose by one point. Overall I think we can still be positive after this game though. Go Raps Go!

      • Eunys

        Thanks man! Best comment of the day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • GetLicks

        Guess you missed the part where I said ‘only thing you can do is take care of the ball and hit free throws.’ Lol

  • golden

    This reminds me of when everybody at our company pulled a week of all-nighters (at no extra pay) to expedite an important order to meet a drop-dead deadline for a marquee customer. We all felt so proud of ourselves to see the shipment go out on Thursday night, expecting it to arrive on Friday morning to meet the end of week deadline. Unfortunately, the incompetent slacker in the shipping department effed up the shipping documentation and the shipment came back on Friday afternoon, sending the entire company into a state of depression. And to make things worse, the boss never said boo to the slacker, who had been working there forever.

    • DryDry

      Reminds me of the ad agency that was pitching to win the FedEx account – work work work sweat sweat sweat make the presentation package, package it up, annnnnnd the mail room sends it to FedEx via UPS.

      They did not win the pitch.


    Salmons came, Salmons saw and salmons fucked up.

    • jjdynomite

      Check out the B.C. run is Salmon Arm someday, they always swim in the opposite direction.

  • Mihkel Bafter

    John Salmons provided the entertainment of the night for me. Never seen a guy make so many clutch plays in 30s for the opposing team before.

    • FREEJV

      he might be the most clutch player on the raptors we should ve gave him the ball in that last play with 1 sec left. he might ve hit a full court shot for okc.

  • Ds

    It’s weird, but both of Salmons’ misses at the free-throw line were not even close. It’s like Drummond was at the line.

    • FREEJV

      im telling you he switched to OKCs side in overtime. he should be investigated for match fixing.

      • jakdripr

        Yea that explains why he contested Durants layup right after turning the ball over…. because he wanted the thunder to win.

        • FREEJV

          actually that was a foul the refs messed up his plan so he made up for it on the ft line…….

          • jakdripr

            So his master plan was to give Durant the ball, then instead of allowing him to score an easy two he decides to foul Durant to make him work for it at the free throw line?

            I can’t believe I’m even having this discussion. W/e you say man, Salmons is an under cover agent trying to destroy our season for w/e silly reason you think he’s doing it, that makes perfect sense man.

    • webfeat

      After almost throwing the game away on the possession before the free throw, his nerves were probably a little jumpy. The only guy on the raps that I have confidence at hitting free throws with the game on the line is Lowry.

  • nutcup

    What a great day to be a Raptor fan !! John Salmons will win us a very important game sometime down the road. Teams that are going into the play offs need to go through fire, They need to become harden steel. They have to understand no game is safe, every play is crucial . This was a great game that will help us down the road. This team is going to come back with a vengeance like they have all year, youth soon forgets disappointments. I like teams with chips on their shoulders. Relax , everything is all right , this is a great teaching moment for the coach and team. Fire makes steel.

    • loved the game

      After reading your comment, I too feel like steel. Raptors forever!

    • Hassan Mehmood Khan

      Great way to look at the loss , hopefully they can take a big lesson from this

    • JCREX

      except that casey is so stubborn he will do the exact same bullshit next time. he will play salmons over ross and hayes over jv he always goes with veterans and he will do his same overcoaching in the playoffs guarenteed

      • Ghotte

        So you’d rather have Ross throw the ball inbounds on that play?

  • Roarque

    This performance makes the Salmons’ buyout decision much easier for Masai.
    This performance makes the Johnson future contract decision much easier for Masai.
    This performance makes the list of teams that want to play the Raptors in round 1 much shorter.
    BTW – I have great pride in the entertaining hustle of this NBA team from Canada.

    • mountio

      Its interesting that Salmons overshadowed what was a GREAT game by Amir. Games like this almost make me believe the people around here that wouldnt trade him for a lottery pick. Only problem is that these games show up every once in a while with a few no shows in between. If he could keep it anywhere near this level consistently, we would be crazy to let him go. [just not sure he can]

      • Roarque

        I agree that Amir rises to the challenge presented by a KD visit. I just hope he can use that same attitude for a playoff appearance. But I am a firm believer that Amir’s greatest strength is his willingness to always do his best on every play in every game. The difference between the two is very hard to explain.

    • iwillball

      Good point. Theres more positive than negatives in this game. It may be hard to see it right after losing what could have been one of the greatest accomplishments the raptors would have made this season, but can’t see them just crushing lesser apponents at this point.

      • iwillball

        Sorry. Meant can see them. Not can’t.

    • Age

      Also for playoffs. None of our guys have much playoff experience (except for Salmons ironically)
      I’d rather have this lesson happen now, instead of being in playoffs like Spurs vs Miami last year.

    • FREEJV

      way to raise your value Amir. now we can package him with demar for LA s top 5 pick 😀

      • or nah?


      • Haim not Feldman

        Good luck wid dat. Kupchak ain’t no fool. Unfortunately for the rest of the league, the Lakers typically punk other teams with what look like unfair trades. Examples: Stiff Brown for Pau Gasol, Kobe’s draft rights for Vlade Divac, Andrew Bynum for Dwight Howard.

        • FREEJV


          • noname

            ya think?

      • JCREX

        i hope amir retires a raptor and no one is going to trade a top 5 pick in this draft for any player outside of a top 10 player in the nba

      • Rapsfan

        That’s dumb still on tank nation

    • bobmasa

      Salmons buyout? that will be great but I am sure no team will be interested unless Duwen Casey is the GM.

      • Roarque

        Salmons contract has a team option buyout for the final year – Raps give him $1 Million and he walks.

      • Ian Reynolds

        He has a 1 million buyout this summer so we can get rid of him with no real penalty. 1 million or so. I can’t remember exactly.

  • DryDry

    If you are John Salmons under the basket and there is nobody to pass to, YOU THROW IT AS HARD AS YOU CAN AT THE FEET OF THE NEAREST THUNDER PLAYER AND YOU GET THE HELL OUT OF THE WAY OF THE BOUNCE

    • jakdripr

      Or just call a timeout…..

  • bellerose

    Thunder fan here. Raptors played a great game. If I’m in the east I’d be a bit worried that you’re the dark horse in the playoffs. Good luck.

    • Junior Qamar

      I love comments like these from oursiders. Makes me feel what I m watching is actually legit. Refs hate us though, dunno y.

  • Dr. Scooby

    I felt Ross was strong defensively on Durant in the 1st quarter…when he finally returned to the floor later in the game he seemed to have lost his rhythm.

  • RobertArchibald

    Lesson learned. With an 8 point lead and less than a minute to go, you play hack-a-reaper. Can’t make threes at the FT line.

    • Roarque

      What? Why can’t you make threes at the FT line? You get three shots.

      • jjdynomite

        Or 4 if he hits the 3 when fouled in the act of shooting — which happened last night via Ross.

  • Just Is

    I know that this is one of those very few times where you actually CAN directly pin a loss to one player (Salmons) but you can’t help but feel bad for the guy right now. Why? Because it actually WAS that clear that this loss was on him and he KNOWS it.

    Personally, I blame this loss on Casey. Salmons has been bad offensively and defensively ever since his back issues came up. And he was bad this game even prior to the closing moments. He shouldn’t have been used in this game and shouldn’t be playing until his back is better (as injuries to the back can and do affect every aspect of a player’s game). I know he said afterwords that Ross suffered a hip injury or something but, based on his track record, even if Ross was 100% fine (which he actually might have been), Casey would have still went to Salmons because he’s a vet. Fields or De Colo (even Bucyks or Stone) should have been used instead here.

    Also, Durant needs to be kicked out of the league. He’s clearly not human and there’s got to be some rule against non-humans playing in the NBA. Some fine print where it states you gotta be human or something, cause that guy is just surreal.

    • Raptogram

      I stayed up with my kids watching the game. My 8 year old actually said “Dad, why is the guy with the beard on the floor, he’s been playing like crap all night.” late in the 2nd overtime. Why couldn’t Dwayne see what my youngest could?

      • Steverino

        No, that never happened.

  • rapboy

    Salmon need to go him for a draft picks….he cost that game by missing free throws two time.

    • Raptogram

      Does Casey even see what screw up Salmons was last night? I didn’t catch anything in his post game scrum. Is he still hooked on the “veteran presence” thing?

    • Tanks-a-lot

      Salmons will be bought out for $1,000,000 in the off season, don’t worry he’s gone.
      The cap savings is reward enough, no need to bring in more junk in a forced trade for the sake of trading.

    • FREEJV

      loool do you know what draft picks are worth? you clearly dont know any basketball

  • Hassan Mehmood Khan

    I think salmons should not play until playoffs he is an ok player when healthy but completely useless when tired, might as well try to get him fully rested for the playoffs so we can get something out of him

  • Niagara_dude

    As mad as I was watching the end of this game we cannot just blame Salmons, game would have been over after Durant made bank shot three and we were up 5.Lowry needs to drive the ball to the basket around the 30 sec mark (he had big on him).He either scores or gets to the foul line instead clock SCV and the Thunder are still alive.We also should consider placing some blame on our General Manager who failed to add quality bench help at the trade deadline.This team reaily suffers if anyone in there rotation goes down (example Patrick Paterson).Other teams went out and added help we are worried about player development (if you are going to make the playoffs and get fans excited) I want to see success not 4-5 games and go fishing.

    • Eunys

      Good point!

    • jakdripr

      The GM didn’t upgrade our bench because we aren’t in win-now mode yet, we’re in evaluation mode. He wants to see what he has going forward and decide who he’ll keep and who he’ll trade. Going all in is a very good way to end up like 06-07 squad who peaked too early and were never that good again. You forget that at the start of the season we were expecting a lottery team, our GM isn’t going to go all in until he’s sure this isn’t just a flash in the pan.

  • Niagara_dude

    Also time to give Landry some playing time even if his jump shot is not there he still adds energy and is reaily good at cuts to the basket.John Salmons is older and needs rest if he is going to offer us anything heading towards the playoffs.Lets just hope Patrick Paterson is ready to down for our next road trip if not it may be time to look for any vet free agents out there before things reaily go south.

  • Eunys

    Salmons brought a lot of good stuff to the raptors the first month he joined…. In the end he still better than Chuck Hayes lool .. I am reallly really mad but keep in mind that the guy played bad and the coach still kept him in the game…bad games happen; I just feel bad for the guy and for the fans in the ACC yesterday! We could have easily won the last 5 games in Patterson was around..that is the good news. I am sure they will learn from is better to loose that way in the season than in the playoffs..Next time they will focus in OT..Need to regroup for the next games….I really want 48 games W this year so we can stop using the 2001 year as reference..Go raptorsssssssssssssssssssssss

  • Steverino

    Much maligned Vasquez??? Only around here. The guy is a very good player. (Also, what is YOLO?)

    • DC

      What is YOLO? In the words of Casey Stengel, you could look it up.

      • Steverino

        I could, but you only live once. Why don’t you just tell me?

        • Tanks-a-lot

          He usually seems to be trying to shoot shots that are meant to pad his stats not help the team.

          He’s not a ‘very good’ NBA player. he may think he is but he is not that good. His game is 99% offense and 1% defense. When he isn’t hitting any shots he’s useless because he can’t defend at all and frequently is flustered by good defenders pressuring him.

          • asifyouknow

            Glad you got it ….I’m sure he wont get a contract now…lol…You have ZERO clue about what your taking about my dear friend…no clue….

            • Tanks-a-lot

              Sure, he’ll get signed somewhere they don’t need a PG that can play defense, a lower rung team with no immediate playoff future.
              Vasquez can live the dream and play on a losing team.

              • asifyouknow

                He has played very good team defense since he got healthy…he has become a must for this team…So enjoy it while you can…Next year Kyle and Vaz will both be gone ..Maybe you can get Rudy back…lol But you have no clue so is best to let you be…..

                • Tanks-a-lot

                  “Next year Kyle and Vaz will both be gone ..Maybe you can get Rudy back…lol But you have no clue”

                  you are a fucking retard

                • Steverino

                  Nice retort, doofus. I agree Vasquez struggled bringing the ball up under pressure in his first few weeks, and defensively, but I haven’t seen any of that since. Seems like you got an opinion stuck in your head and won’t let go of it. There’s no way he’s padding his stats; he’s taking what’s there, what any coach will tell a player to do. To that end, you have no idea what the coaches have told him to do. Also, players have different strengths. The ones that have no weaknesses are super-stars.

                • Tanks-a-lot

                  He’s padding his stats when he takes 9 shots in a row while running the 2nd unit.
                  It’s all gravy when he’s making shots, but he’s just greasing his own palm.

    • asifyouknow

      Yea ill agree Steverino, he is a starting PG but fans here have no clue about the guy, but they are learning…Some folks don’t want to understand the guy just came of surgery and had a plan to work his way back to 100% by the all-star break, if you see the numbers after that you see that his plan is working…
      I guess fans here miss a guy named AJ Augustine, he will be available next year maybe they can get him back . I see Vaz in New York or Los Angeles next year. I pray San Antonio…

      • Mexiballer

        Give it a break. You think the Pop would want Vasquez? Learn about basketball before spouting such ridiculous opinions.

    • asifyouknow

      Steverino he is no YOLO, he was the captain of the team in New Orleans, players don’t select selfish guys as their captain.. so that is a bunch of crap tagged on him by folks who don’t know the guy…or simply hate him for whatever reason…

  • Ion66

    The Raptors better get a sponsorship from Swiffer, because if Fields ever does come off the bench, it’s going to kick up a ton of dust.

  • tackhead9

    I’ll admit, I’m a Landry Fields apologist, and it’s been a losing battle this year. But wasn’t that late-game situation basically tailor-made for Fields?

  • Savvi M

    Fucking John Salmon’s!!!

  • noname

    looks like the raptors caught that bacteria again. what’s it called? oh yeah…Salmonella.

  • asifyouknow

    On Salmons: One play does not make a guys season…Just saying..