Thunder get right again with 91-75 over the Raptors

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BOX SCORE

For a good portion of Sunday’s game against Toronto, it was more of the same from the Thunder. More lazy offense, more unfocused defense, more unenergized play.

And then they went on a little 24-0 run.

By all appearances, this game had the look of one that would be a fourth quarter battle. But the Thunder’s spurt came seemingly out of nowhere as Daequan Cook popped back-to-back 3s to end the third. After that, the starters were done for the night and it was on to just cleaning up the rest of this thing. In all, the Raptors went eight minutes and 56 seconds without scoring a point. Gary Forbes even did the Thunder a solid too by missing a pair of free throws that allowed OKC to extend it the run a little longer.

The first 35 minutes of the game though were pretty brutal. At about the three-minute mark of the third, the Thunder were shooting 38 percent and the Raptors 36.7. But that big run erased all the blemishes of what would’ve been a pretty ugly win, if even the Thunder got that far.

In the end, it was about simply handling a little business, getting back in the win column and moving past an inferior opponent. All of which the Thunder accomplished with relative ease. The main goal was to win the game, but Scott Brooks did have an eye toward how the team performed.

“Yes, we did care,” Brooks said. “We win, we try to get better the next day. We lose, we try and focus on the areas we could do better.”

Fortunately, for the first time in a week, this was a win-and-get-better situation.

You could really file this one under the “40-degree win” category, because there wasn’t much of any all that striking about it. No highlights, no big statlines, no significant takeaway or important moment to focus on. Really if anything, the most memorable thing is probably the fact Derek Fisher made a 3-pointer.

The Thunder had a bit of a glazed look about them for a lot of the game and I wonder if the season is wearing on them. They got up so much for those three games against the Heat, Lakers and Bulls and it almost seems like they crashed. It’s going to be a fight to secure that No. 1 seed, especially with some tough games ahead on the schedule. I’m telling you, having the playoffs within view has to be difficult because that’s what they’ve been building for. It’s going to take some refocusing to get things straightened out heading into the postseason because you want to be sure you’ve not only positioned yourself well in terms of seed and homecourt, but you also want to feel good about the way you’re playing.

There wasn’t much to feel good about Sunday until that third quarter burst, but getting business handled and moving on with a smooth double-digit win is absolutely a step back in the right direction.

NOTES:

  • Westbrook got pretty much whatever he wanted against Calderon. He was on target for what seemed to be an easy triple-double with 11 points six rebounds and six assists in the first half. But he only had four points and neither an assist nor rebound in the second. Reason obviously being that he only played 10 minutes.
  • Westbrook’s mid-range game has disappeared. Not because he’s missing, but because he’s not taking any. I can’t really tell if that’s a defense thing, if that’s him trying to be more aggressive at the hoop, if he’s passing on taking them or what.
  • The NBA really needs to have a little seminar with its officials about what’s a charge. Players are rewarded far too often that are still sliding underneath when an offensive player takes off.
  • Stupid thought: Serge Ibaka smells the ball in between every free throw, except for his own. So he doesn’t need the motivation of the smell on his own? I don’t get it.
  • The Thunder went 10-of-23 from 3. That’s pretty good.
  • Harden was finally back to his old ways of efficient scoring — 17 points on 5-10 shooting. He played with what appeared to be a little more energy and a renewed sense of confidence in his game. Aggressive to the hoop, willing to shoot at any moments and clever with the basketball in his hands.
  • KD entered tonight’s game needing 40 points to take over the scoring lead from Kobe and finished with 23 on 7-14 shooting. I’m pretty sure he could’ve topped 40 had he wanted to, but it wasn’t at all necessary.
  • Three starters were minuses tonight and Westbrook was even. Every bench player was a positive. It’s good to be on the floor during a run.
  • I chose that picture up top for obvious reasons.
  • Really nice to have Daequan Cook back in the rotation. He went just 2-7 from 3, but he has a knack for hitting momentum 3s. Those almost seem like they count for six points.
  • In the second quarter, Harden had the ball with Collison nearby ready to run screen-and-roll. Harden called out for Nazr Mohammed to come run it with him instead, who was across the court. Mohammed signaled that Collison was right there, but Harden was insistent — he wanted Mohammed. The reason? Mohammed was being guarded by Ed Davis who clearly had issues defending the pick-and-roll. Harden had Collison on the baseline and read everything beautifully, dishing to Collison for an easy, open jumper. James Harden is a smart basketball player.
  • Again, Fisher made a 3 in the second quarter. They did not stop the game in order to recognize this achievement. Then he made another in the fourth quarter. He’s now 5-of-18 from 3 with OKC.
  • I have no idea what he was saying, but Toronto’s play-by-play guy was leaned back in his chair on his elbow late in the fourth quarter. He looked completely worn.
  • Fisher showed a little of his newness on a Skip Pass Play late in the third quarter. When Harden threw the skip to Cook, Fisher was a little too close to Cook, and actually reached out for the ball thinking it was for him. It messed up the play and Cook had to act quickly pulling a nice little give-and-go with Fisher for a layup.
  • Duane Casey and his assistant spent most of the game yelling out defensive instructions. That’s something you see with bad teams — their coaches never stop yelling out stuff defensively.
  • Casey also counted down the shot clock for his team starting at seven on almost every possession. Screaming, “Seven! Six! Five!…” Kind of got old in the second half considering it happened on almost every possession.
  • I assume it had to be intentional, but they played Jurassic Park’s theme right before the Raptors starting five was announced. Outstanding touch, Thunder.
  • After an oop that failed between Westbrook and Durant in the first quarter, KD came over to the score table and asked what they ruled it — missed shot or turnover. It was ruled a missed shot and KD said to the scorekeeper, “I’d rather take a turnover at this point.”
  • If you missed it, the Thunder repeated as Northwest Division champs because of Denver’s loss last night.

Next up: At Milwaukee Monday.

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