Durant called it the craziest game he has ever been a part of. The end was particularly wacky, with the Raptors surrendering an eight-point lead with 49 seconds remaining. During that span, Durant hit a banked three-pointer, Derek Fisher hit a three-pointer after missing all night, John Salmons turned over an inbound pass, Durant missed a layup that would have tied the game, Salmons missed two free throws and, finally, Durant won it from the other side of Lake Ontario. That was after Lowry forced double overtime by hitting a late three-pointer in the first game.
With Greivis Vasquez fouling out on an awful offensive foul call, John Salmons was inserted and promptly made a mess of things. He nearly turned the ball over right under his own basket on an inbounds play, then missed two huge free-throws, keeping the oxygen flowing into the Thunder’s once comatose frame. And then it was KD time. The Slim Reaper already had 48 points in this one, but hit the 51 mark on a huge 31-foot three pointer with 1.9 seconds left. OKC took the win. This meant DeRozan’s 33 point outing and Lowry’s 25 point effort were all for naught, and Amr Johnson finished the game with 25 points, 12 rebounds, and 5 blocks, moving into second on the Dinos’ all-time blocks list.
Another kid with a bright future is Terrence Ross, but he settles too much for his jumper rather than put the ball on the floor and attack the rim. Ross has to somehow improve his overall basketball IQ. It’s one thing to rely on sheer athleticicism, quite another to recognize and read situations. For some reason, Ross fouled Durant as OKC’s leading scorer was about to attempt a three-ball. One of the game’s no-nos is to never a foul a jump shooter, but there was Ross picking up his fourth personal, paving the way for Durant’s four-point play.
The Thunder trailed 118-110 with 49 seconds left, cuing up the Scott Brooks/Derek Fisher gripes in full. Meanwhile, Durant canned a 3 to cut it to five. A great defensive possession forced a shot clock violation and OKC had it back with 22 seconds left. Fisher, who had been a walking facepalm the entire game, did the kind of thing he’s wont to do, drilling a wild, contested 3 with 15 seconds left — 118-116. Lamb got his hand on the inbound pass and Durant scooped it up heading to the rim. John Salmons stripped/fouled him, and the Raptors survived, it seemed. But Salmons missed both free throws, opening the door for the Reaper to steal Toronto’s soul.
It was the Raptors that controlled the entire second overtime frame, and with the Thunder trailing 118-110 with 49 seconds left, it seemed like the only thing left to do was turn off the TV and pray all night that tomorrow’s evaluation would bring positive results. That’s when Durant decided to answer a few prayers on his own, first. He nailed a three to begin with, and then a defensive stop led to a Derek Fisher three (because of course he hits a clutch three) to cut the lead to 118-116. After a wild sequence in which KD lost a chance to tie it off a steal, John Salmons missed both free throws and left the door open for the Thunder to at least force a third OT after all.
“We couldn’t go another overtime. I had to live with whatever happened,” Durant said. “I pulled up for it, it looked good when it left my hands and God guided that thing to the basket, man.”
“It was tough, man,” he said, asked about defending the league’s leading scorer. “He’s my height, out there shooting from half court. There’s not too much you can do but double team that.” “He did a great job,” Casey added. “I felt for him. He’s hurt. He was all over him, draped over him. (Durant) made a tough shot. There’s nothing Amir did wrong.”
If the Raptors let all of their free agents go and bought out all of their non-guaranteed contracts, they could possibly get $20 million in salary cap space (minus holds for open salary slots and their first round draft pick) and take a run at a bigger name free agent in July, but that seems like an unlikely scenario. There would be just too many holes to fill on this roster to actually get better going that route. Keeping Johnson, Lowry and Patterson means this team will not have salary cap space to play with and it’s pretty hard to imagine just which high end free agents will be available that Toronto could realistically pursue that would make this team better anyway.
Between the qualifying offers for Greivis Vasquez and Patrick Patterson and rookie salaries, there isn’t room to make any major free-agent deals before brushing up against the luxury-tax threshold. So the Raptors are relying on internal improvement and a pick likely to fall in the late teens or early 20s to boost their ceiling from playoff squad to true contenders. That’s not going to happen. Ross and Valanciunas could both make leaps and bounds, but it’s important to remember this is only a third seed by virtue of a historically weak conference. Even those improvements, as well as sizable ones from other players, wouldn’t guarantee status as a true contender. For that reason alone, Ujiri’s vision should not change. He should still be striving to make a few blockbuster deals and drastically improve the fortunes of this franchise, ideally through landing one of the elite prospects in the current draft class. Don’t expect Toronto to sit still this summer.
“(I)’ve always been a big Toronto fan. I was definitely a fan (an upward tilt of the head and a small smile) but I play for Oklahoma City now.” Yeah, we know. We saw you. Durant played sentimentally for the first half, missing gimmes and worse. The refs helped ease him into the contest. Just around the time when you began to think “Kevin Durant is having a totally crap night” you realized he was leading all scorers. With seconds left in double OT, in a game they should have lost, it was Durant who found himself with the ball, his team down two. He had the presence of mind to wait a few beats. Standing nine feet — nine feet — behind the arc, in traffic, he drew up and won the game. It ended 119-118. Durant finished with 51. He should have scored 60 (and in regulation). It was also the second night of a back-to-back. He played 53 minutes. Another comme ci comme ca outing for basketball’s form player.