Wednesday in Charlotte, the Thunder built a 19-point lead with just over two minutes to go in the first half. The game had the looks of a cruise control blowout. Then the Thunder got sloppy, turned the ball over and allowed the Bobcats to cut the lead to seven before halftime and build valuable momentum going to the locker room.
Tonight? Oklahoma City wasn’t about to let it happen again. The Thunder led by 19 with 2:45 left in the half against Toronto tonight and instead of falling on their faces, OKC extended the lead to 27 and basically ended the game right then and there. You want Coach of the Year material for Scott Brooks? Here’s your Coach of the Year material. Brooks put his team through a rough and tumble, physical, intense practice Thursday after the loss in Charlotte. He was making and stressing the point to his young squad that under no circumstances can you take your foot off the pedal. I think his group got the message.
It all resulted in a 115-89 domination of the Raptors, a game that certainly made Thunder fans forget Wednesday. OKC just absolutely owned the game. The Thunder shot 26 free throws in the first half, making 23 (29-33 for the game). Kevin Durant scored 31 in three quarters and hit 17-18 from the stripe (15-15 in the first half). OKC took 21 more shots than Toronto. The Thunder controlled the glass 53-37 and grabbed 20 offensive rebounds. And an underrated, but key stat: OKC turned it over just nine times, including five through the first three quarters. Boomshakalaka.
Oh, and one more thing before we go to bullets: Serge Freaking Chewblaka Ibaka. His putback jam in the second quarter deserves more than a little bullet. That was definitely the best in-game dunk of the year and maybe my favorite Thunder dunk yet. It was just disgustingly, ridiculously, horrifyingly something-ly awesome. I think he broke the entire city of Toronto with that one. It says it all. I thought the other follow against the Bobcats would be a SportsCenter Top 10. But if this one isn’t, I’m flying to Bristol personally. It was the type of play where you leap instinctively off the couch, yell something loudly and look to high-five anything around you, even if it’s an inanimate object. A candle holder on my coffee table got a few slaps.
- Shame Mustafa Shakur wasn’t active for this one. It would’ve been a perfect game for him to play four or five minutes.
- Russell Westbrook completely controlled this game. Eleven points and 10 assists in just 26 minutes. He was just completely solid.
- Jeff Green went third quarter crazy. He scored 12 points and hit three 3s in the period. Green finished with 25 points and seven rebounds.
- Kyle Weaver! After getting a small call-out, and scoring zero points in three games, the Dreamweaver hit four 3s and scored 12 points. The two treys he hit in the first half were actually pretty big. He’s just a great, heady defender that’s always tipping passes and blocking shots – he’s just disruptive - so add some offense and he’s a nice piece. He was more aggressive and actually looked for his shot a little tonight.
- I want to point out Westbrook’s one-handed, left-handed bounce pass to Thabo on a fast break with seven minutes left in the first quarter. Thabo missed, but it was an extremely impressive pass. A good example of the improvement of Westbrook’s passing ability and court vision.
- KD took a pretty hard spill in the second quarter. He landed hard on his tailbone. Safe to say, I screeched like a small girl.
- One thing I’ve been meaning to point out for some time, but always forget: As great a coach as Scott Brooks is, he’s not a good referee complainer. He just looks awkward. He’s got this thing where he always has one hand holding his belt and motions with the other hand. It just looks forced. Good thing that has absolutely nothing to do with coaching ability.
- Second chance points for OKC 27-4 over Toronto. Fast break points 30-10.
- One more time: SERRRRRRGE. Go back and watch Eric Maynor’s expression after it. It says it all. Oh and while Ibaka’s dunk was the highlight of the night, he also had two great blocks on Chris Bosh at the rim.
- The one bummer: KD has now missed 11 straight 3-pointers.
- Is there anything like making another home crowd boo their boys? That’s got to be a great feeling.
- In two games against Toronto, one of the best offensive teams in the league, OKC is allowing just 94 points a game.
- I don’t know where to exactly pinpoint Toronto’s defensive issues, but if I were to attempt to simplify it, it’s just each player just doesn’t stop his man. The defensive is constantly trying to rotate and help because there’s just not the effort to stop the man in front of you. They allow easy penetration, which for a team like OKC that shares the ball, the ball moves well and there are a bunch of open looks.
Every now and then, after the Thunder drops a game like they did in Charlotte, those little thoughts start to creep into our minds. Is this team really a contender? Is the youth starting to show? Should we be worried about a late season collapse? And then like a bucket of ice water to the face, this team slaps us and plays one like this. It’s just example No. 1,000 of how far these guys have come. Instead of letting a loss linger, they got in the practice gym, worked hard and redeemed themselves on the court. I can tell you, as frustrated I felt after the Charlotte game, it was the opposite tonight. Any time not one starter plays in the fourth quarter, it’s a good thing.
Next up: At Indiana Sunday afternoon at 1:30 CDT.