Although in the midst of a wildly encouraging, breakout season, this group of Toronto Raptors retains one characteristic of those bleak “Craptors” teams of too-recent memory. Their inability to win overtime games, particularly on home court, was egregiously demonstrated last night. With 49 seconds to play in the second overtime, the Raps enjoyed an 8-point lead. Yet somehow (well, actually, because of three consecutive 3-balls), the visitors wound up on top. John Salmons missed both free throw attempts at 9 seconds, DeMar DeRozan’s desperation heave at the buzzer was short, and the Raps had snatched defeat from victory.
Perhaps this analysis is too harsh, so I’ll make minor redress by stating the obvious: OKC’s Kevin Durant is one phenomenal practioner of hoops. The Thunder’s scrawny All-World swingman scored a ludicrous 51 points, including the first and third of the comeback 3-balls. Durant was cold to begin, making 2 of 8 tries in Q1, but more than made up later. His 7 (of 12) 3-balls was only one short of the entire Raps output. Toronto shooting was disappointing all night. While the Three Amigos (DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, Amir Johnson) combined for 83 points, and Greivis Vasquez came off the bench to score a highly efficient 21, the rest of the squad was dreadful. Among them, Terrence Ross, John Salmons, Tyler Hansbrough and Nando De Colo made 21 shot attempts – and 2 baskets. Jonas Valanciunas didn’t help much, making 3 of 11. I must harp on this because any degree of decent shooting would have seen the Raps win this game in regulation time. The Thunder were also chilly, shooting 38.8%. However, they were smart enough to get the ball to their mealticket, Durant, who took 32 of their 98 shots. Russell Westbrook re-injured his surgically rebuilt right knee in a collision with Lowry, and left the game in Q3 after scoring 15. Super-sub guard Reggie Jackson poured in 25, including all 10 free throws he tried.
Amir Johnson blocked 5 shots and grabbed half of his 12 rebounds off the defensive glass. JV had 13 boards, but 8 points in 45+ minutes won’t do. The Raps had only 17 assists (against 18 turnovers), which is largely the effect of missing so many shots taken after receiving passes. I’m looking at you, TRoss. They won the overall boards battle, 57-47, and scored their share of buckets on offensive rebounds.
The Raptors must deal with the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday afternoon.
P.S. I’ll write a post shortly about the Raps’ overtime losses at home, but it won’t be today. Like so many of you, Rapture Nation, I’m still depressed about last night.