What. A. Game.
It took two extra periods but the Oklahoma City Thunder took down the Toronto Raptors 135-127. There were lots of ups, and certainly a lot of downs, but as Raptors Republic’s Louis Zatzman says, there are no losses, only wins and lessons.
Tale Of Two Halves
After one of the worst performances of this whirlwind season against the Houston Rockets on Friday, the Raptors looked like a totally different team in the first half in this one. Part of that is Toronto is now fully healthy, as RJ Barrett returned following Immanuel Quickley and Jakob Poeltl coming back last game.
Canada’s team suffocated their opposition in the first half, holding the Thunder to 47 points on 42.2 percent shooting. That tied the second-fewest points Oklahoma City has scored in the first half all season, and it was just the seventh time that they have been down by double-digits at halftime this year. What’s more impressive is that the Raptors clamped down without fouling, not allowing the Thunder to get to the chairty stripe till just over a minute left in the first half. What’s even more impressive about that is Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is one of the best in the league at getting to the line (fourth in the NBA in free throw attempts) and only took three free shots all game.
But then it all changed.
After getting the lead up to as many as 23 at one point in the third quarter, OKC clawed all the way back in just 9:45 of game time by hitting three, after three, after three, and tightening the screws on defence. According to Keerthika Uthayakumar, that 23-point blown lead was the largest by Toronto in a game since December 2013, when they conceded a 27-point advantage.
After fellow Canadian Dillon Brooks played against Toronto on Friday, more members from Canada’s mens national team were on the court last night. On Oklahoma City’s side, MVP candidate Gilgeous-Alexander tied a career-high with 14 assists to go along with 23 points, nine rebounds, three blocks and two steals. He consistently carved up the Raptors’ defence in half number two and seemingly didn’t make a wrong decision all night, scoring or assisting on all eight of OKC’s points in the first overtime.
Montreal, Quebec native Lu Dort also showed out, joining Gilgeous-Alexander as two of five Thunder players to score 20 points or more, finishing with 22 buckets, seven boards, four dimes, and hit a game-high five shots from downtown.
On Toronto’s side, Mississauga, Ontario native RJ Barrett made an emphatic return from injury with a team-high 23 points, seven rebounds, and four assists. All three Canadians combined for 68 points in the contest.
Raptors fans, games like these are gonna happen more often than not. What’s encouraging is you can start to see a vision for the team with everyone healthy, these are good reps. It’s tough that they blew the lead, yes, but it’s also a positive that they had that lead in the first place and pushed the number one team in the Western Conference to double OT.
It’s been a heck of a road trip so far to say the least, losing in buzzer-beating fashion on a put-back in Atlanta to kick the trip off, an undermanned win against DeMar DeRozan and the Bulls, an uninspiring performance against Houston, and now a double overtime thriller against one of the league’s top teams. They are now 1-3 on this roadie and will take on the Pelicans in the second half of a back-to-back tomorrow, then play Charlotte on Wednesday.
But before they come home, the trade deadline will take place on Feb. 8th, and who knows which Raptors will make their return to Canada as a part of the organization.