Regular Season Recap: Thunder vs Raptors

RAPTORS 75

THUNDER 91
0 Lead changes in a game which also only featured two ties, with the last one coming at 16-16 with 3:56 remaining in the first quarter

4-for-6 Three-point shooting numbers for Kevin Durant, who finished with 23 points

7 Offensive rebounds for Nick Collison, one shy of tying his career-high

11 Blocked shots by the Thunder, including five from Serge Ibaka

21 Points off of 16 forced Raptors turnovers by the Thunder

21-for-26 Shooting numbers from the free throw line for the Thunder

24-0 The run the Thunder went on from 6:05 remaining in the third quarter to 9:09 remaining in the fourth quarter

40 Bench points for the Thunder tonight, including 17 from James Harden

The Thunder hits the road for one game to take on the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday night. Game time is 7:00 p.m. Central and will air live on Fox Sports Oklahoma and the Thunder Radio Network.

The Thunder then returns home to face the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night and hosts the Sacramento Kings on Friday night before beginning a five-game Western Conference road trip, starting with a game at the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday night.

GAME IN REVIEW


RECAP:
Mid-way through the third quarter, sitting on a meager 58-55 lead at Chesapeake Energy Arena over the Toronto Raptors wasn’t exactly where Head Coach Scott Brooks hoped his team would be on Easter Sunday night. After taking a timeout with 6:05 remaining in the quarter, the Thunder burst out to a 24-0 run to completely wrestle away control of the game. After the game, Brooks discussed the importance of being able to take command of games in the waning and opening moments of quarters.

“We talked about that yesterday in our practice-slash-shootaround to finish strong in all quarters and start the quarters off with some great execution,” Brooks said. “We did a great job in the second half and we looked for that. We wanted to see some progress in that area and I thought the guys really locked in and focused in on that, closing out the quarter.”

The Thunder, who clinched its second consecutive Northwest Division title on Saturday night when the Denver Nuggets lost to the Golden State Warriors, will need to continue closing out quarters strongly as it wraps up the final ten games of the season and heads into the playoffs. Another focus for this Thunder team, and part of its identity, has been defensive intensity, which was on full display Sunday night. This is the fifth straight game the Thunder has forced a team into 41 percent shooting or less, and the Raptors’ 12-point third quarter, in which it shot 24 percent from the field, was a product of the second unit’s defense.

“We just brought energy,” guard Thabo Sefolosha said of the third quarter in general. “In the first half we were looking at the way they played, playing them the first time this year. I think we stepped it up and played well at the end of the third and fourth quarters… (The second unit is) great, they’ve been great the whole year and now that we have Daequan (Cook) back, they’re getting back into their rhythm.”

The sharpshooting Cook knocked down two of the ten three pointers that the Thunder hit on the night, which James Harden and Derek Fisher each hitting two while Kevin Durant, who scored a game-high 23 points, pitched in four shots from deep. Particularly in the first half, many of those shots were aided by the passing of Russell Westbrook, Harden and Nick Collison. Westbrook seemed to be on track for a triple double, with 11 points, six rebounds and six assists in the first half. In the second half, he stayed aggressive and got the ball to his teammates to get to the foul line.

“I’m just trying to find a way to get us going,” Westbrook said. “Just trying to keep attacking and trying to find some energy where my teammates can pick it up.”

That energy from Westbrook has been bubbling over for the last two weeks, personified by the last two contests, in which Westbrook simply wouldn’t let the Thunder go down without a fight at Indiana and in the first half tonight when he zipped around the court. Another player who seemed to be everywhere at once tonight was forward Nick Collison, whose six points, nine rebounds (seven offensive), four assists and three steals helped the second unit jumpstart that massive run to put the game out of reach. It was Collison’s hustle that allowed the Thunder multiple extra chances at the basket.

“When we’re in that small lineup like we have, there is a lot of space,” Collison said, when asked about his seven offensive boards. “I try to use that as an advantage and chase everything down. A lot of times we’re taking jump shots and there is space to beat your man on box outs. Sometimes the ball goes your way, and some of it was pursuing, but it was a good night for our second group.”

TURNING POINT:
This game was blown wide open midway through the third quarter, when the Thunder came out of a timeout holding a precarious 58-55 lead with 6:05 remaining in the period. The Thunder went on to score 24 straight points and held the Raptors scoreless from that point until they finally got a bucket with 9:09 remaining in the fourth quarter. The Thunder forced three turnovers and seven consecutive missed shots to end the third quarter, then cause two more turnovers and another missed shot to start the fourth quarter. Offensively during that stretch, Daequan Cook had five points and James Harden had eight points to spark the run.

PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON’T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Kendrick Perkins battles down low on defense to get a rebound, then Russell Westbrook drives into the lane and hits Serge Ibaka for a midrange jumper… Westbrook slips a pass off a pump fake to Perkins for an easy layup, then Ibaka makes a nice pass from the paint to Kevin Durant for a spot-up three pointer… Beautiful back door cut down low off a screen by Perkins as Westbrook hits him for a slam dunk, then Perfect defense from Durant to impact a shot… Coach Brooks calls out a play, then Westbrook finds Durant who posts up and makes an old-fashioned three-point play… Nice play by Durant to slap away a shot attempt on a Raptors drive… Ibaka and Nick Collison tip around an offensive board until Westbrook picks it up, then he drops it off to Durant for a 3-pointer… Collison continues to tip and grab rebounds on both ends of the court… James Harden somehow slips through the lane and gets to the rim for a slam dunk, then Durant somehow makes a circus shot at the buzzer as he flies through the lane... Harden makes a steal, then Harden slings the ball cross-court to Derek Fisher for a 3-pointer… Fisher picks up a loose ball and dishes ahead to Harden to draw a foul, then Harden tosses a beautiful cross-court pass to Daequan Cook for a 3-pointer, aided by a Collison pick… Harden rewards Collison the next time down with a pass off a pick-and-roll with Nazr Mohammed for a mid-range jumper… Collison makes a steal in the lane, then Westbrook grabs a defensive board and takes it the length of a court for a step-through layup… Westbrook drives the lane and gets another assist as he hits Durant for a three-pointer, then Westbrook spins in the lane and hits a back shot with the foul… Ibaka makes an incredible block then saves the ball in-bounds to Thabo Sefolosha, then Sefolosha and Westbrook play give-and-go for a Westbrook lefty layup.

PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON’T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Ibaka strongly swats away a shot in the lane and Perkins cleans it up, then Perkins and Sefolosha play tough defense in the paint to force a 24-second shot clock violation… Durant knocking down a step-back jumper then calling out “switch” to Westbrook on a pick-and-roll… Perkins with a tough box-out to grab a defensive board, then he makes a steal in the lane after a Harden strip… Great anticipation by Durant to make a steal, then Harden and Durant work a pick-and-pop for a 3-pointer… The Thunder locks down on defense on the next possession, forcing a 24-second shot clock violation, then Fisher hits Cook on a cut for an acrobatic lefty layup… Strong rebound from Durant to come down with a defensive board with one hand, then he hits Cook in the corner for a 3-pointer as the quarter ends… Cook makes a defensive play by simply keeping his hands up and in the passing lane, then Harden knocks down a three –pointer off a Collison pick… Harden slides into the lane and draws the foul on a Euro-step layup then Collison makes two offensive rebounds on the same play, tipping in a missed shot… Collison with a big block and rebound in the lane, then Sefolosha hustles down a loose offensive rebound… Collison makes a tough box-out against a much-bigger man, then he saves a ball to hit Fisher in the corner for a 3-pointer… Fisher gets on the floor for a loose ball then Cole Aldrich makes a monster slam!... Lazar Hayward makes a nice strip on defense, knocking it off a Raptor’s leg.



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