13 Number of lead changes in the game, which also had nine ties
19-13 The Thunder’s edge in fast break points on the night
24 Points for Kevin Durant in addition to eight rebounds and three assists
27 Points for Russell Westbrook in addition to nine rebounds and five assists
33 Bench points for the Thunder, led by eight from Perry Jones
35-for-36 Free throw shooting numbers for the Thunder
47-42 Rebounding advantage for the Thunder on the night
Dec. 22nd, 2013
Some nights in the NBA, a team can get the looks at the rim that it wants, but the shots just don’t fall.
In a 104-98 loss at Chesapeake Energy Arena to the Toronto Raptors, the Thunder couldn’t find their shooting stroke, but battled with togetherness throughout the night to give itself a chance to win. Despite shooting just 36.8 percent from the field, many clean looks that normally go down, the Thunder was in a tie ball game with just over a minute remaining.
Unfortunately Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club couldn’t get a bucket to go down in the closing minutes while the Raptors hit six straight free throws to close it out, giving the Thunder its first home loss of the season and ending a stretch of 17-of-18 wins for Oklahoma City.
“You have to give Toronto credit,” Brooks said. “We’ll get better from it and move on to the next game.”
It was one of those nights where the team has to just tip its cap to the opponent for getting stops, knocking down free throws and making plays in the final stretch, but the Thunder still hopes to learn from this one, which puts the team’s record at 22-5 on the season.
One area where Brooks’ club can look to as a positive sign was the defense, particularly in the third quarter. The Thunder held Toronto to just 39.6 percent shooting from the field, including just 4-for-23 shooting in the third quarter when it kept the Raptors to just 13 points. That defensive intensity was sparked by one of the Thunder’s leaders, Kevin Durant.
“When KD (Durant) switched up on DeRozan, it really gave us the energy that we needed to get stops on the defensive end,” Brooks said. “KD’s defense inspired us in that 3rd quarter, and then we started making shots and then we made some 3s.”
Many of the principles the Thunder relies upon for the full 48 minutes of its defensive effort were on display on Sunday night, as the Raptors only shot 31.7 percent from the field in the second half, including 1-for-6 from behind the arc. Thunder defenders were switching out on screens, chasing men away from open looks on the perimeter and preventing drives to the rim, but despite 51 combined points for Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and 33 bench points, the Thunder couldn’t knock down enough shots to get the win.
“We were running them off the line, contesting shots, clogging up the paint and communicating,” Jackson said. “Our defense kept us in the game and that was our silver lining. We can be happy with our performance on the defensive end. We have 82 games and sometimes shots just don’t fall. It was a tough one tonight.”
One wrinkle that Brooks and the coaching staff threw into the mix on Sunday was getting some crunch time minutes for second-year forward Perry Jones, who played out the final 4:34 of this one. Jones was the leading scorer off the bench for the Thunder, hitting his first three shots and playing tight defense on whomever he was tasked to guard.
The rangy forward hit two clutch free throws with 2:09 remaining to draw the Thunder deficit to just three points before Kevin Durant’s three-ball tied the game at 98. His most important task was on the defensive end, however, where his length, size and quickness can be a factor against certain opponents.
“He’s the guy that I think about on our team who can be our utility defender,” Brooks explained. “They had a lot of athletic wings and I felt his length could affect some of their shots. He did a good job.”
“I felt good and just went out there and did what I could to the best of my ability, and defend,” Jones said. “I just think to myself, ‘you might get 15-20 minutes this game’, every game. That’s the way I stay mentally prepared.”
The Thunder battled back to tie this one at 98-98 with just 1:39 left on the clock, but a 6-0 Raptors run to close out the game sealed the game and gave the Thunder its first home loss of the season. Kevin Durant’s three-pointer tied the game, but on the Raptors next possession John Salmons drew a foul and hit both free throws. Reggie Jackson missed a three and Russell Westbrook had a driving layup blocked before the Thunder was forced to foul with 14.5 seconds left. Two Amir Johnson Free throws and two Kyle Lowry free throws closed out the game as Durant and Jackson’s three-point tries found iron.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Wonderful backdoor cut by Russell Westbrook and great vision by Serge Ibaka to hit him for a layup. Ibaka tips a defensive rebound to Kendrick Perkins, preventing Toronto from getting an offensive put back. Jeremy Lamb hustles back to blow up a two-on-one opportunity by blocking a dunk attempt. Steven Adams plays great pick-and-roll defense to force a difficult pass that results in a turnover. Reggie Jackson dives on the floor for a loose ball and pitches it to a teammate. Perry Jones sticks with the play and slaps the ball out of a Raptors players’ hands to get a put back.
PLAYS THE BOX SCORE DOESN'T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Kevin Durant draws an offensive foul against Toronto by fighting through a screen. Great gang rebounding by the Thunder on the defensive end to come up with a stop. Westbrook smartly pushes the all ahead to Durant early in transition to get a wide open three-pointer. The Thunder’s team defense forces Toronto into a shot clock violation. Derek Fisher steps in and draws a charge to stop penetration. Excellent team defense prevents the Raptors from getting a shot off to end the quarter. Fisher deflects a pass headed to the corner to break up a Raptors possession.
“We had a great streak going at home and now we just have to go on the road and get a win.” - Head Coach Scott Brooks