The Toronto Raptors punctured the perfect home record of the Oklahoma City Thunder with a come-from-behind triumph. Trailing by 9 points after a dreadful third quarter in which their shooting went frosty, the ball began falling again in Q4. OKC’s shooters become the chilly ones, and the Raps kept plugging away. They tied the match at 93, then pulled ahead by 5, following a Kyle Lowry 3-ball. The Thunder tied it at 98 with 1:39 to play – and neither team managed another field goal. The Raps, however, hit all 6 of their free throws, and a shocked and silent crowd filed out.
Toronto rolled out to a 62-point first half, aided by balanced scoring from the starters and useful minutes from the much stronger second unit. Kyle led the way with 17 points, 3 of those coming when he put up an off-balance jumper with a second to play, was fouled, and drained them all. He also dished 6 assists. The Raps’ defense did its best, but the Thunder offense was almost as productive, using their frequent trips to the foul line to stay within 6.
Raps’ coach Dwane Casey has made some gaffs this season, but he was on his game tonight. His substitutions were well-judged, his timeouts likewise, and his decision following our last timeout to swing the ball into the backcourt with 22 seconds to play forced the Thunder to chase. By the time Amir Johnson (who provided a beefy double-double of 17 points and 13 rebounds) was fouled, 8 precious seconds had ticked away. Terrence Ross struggled with his shot, so John Salmons came off the bench to play 30+ minutes and chip in 14 points. Jonas Valanciunas did not dominate the boards, but 13 hard-earned points were most welcome.
Despite Amir’s excellence, the Raps don’t win this game without Kyle. He ended with 22 points and 9 helpers, pulled down 7 boards, and let’s not forget a game-high 4 steals. If Masai Ujiri wants to trade this guy, he best extract a serious pound of flesh from somebody.
OKC’s offense was headlined by the usual suspects, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, who combined for 51 points. It was the team’s 7 of 23 shooting from distance, and the failure of their bench to contribute, which led to OKC’s shocking defeat.
The Raps are now in the highly unfamiliar position of having a positive road record (7-6) and the lead in the Atlantic Division by percentage points over the Boston Celtics.
The road trip continues with a visit to the formidable San Antonio Spurs on Monday night.
Brian Boake is Senior Editor for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.
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