Thunder at Toronto Raptors Game Recap – March 16, 2017

By Nick Gallo | Thunder Basketball Writer |

TORONTO - Call it whatever you want, but when Russell Westbrook’s one-handed, cross-court bounce pass traveled from one three-point line to the other three-point line in transition, it had to be placed in the perfect spot to have any chance to find its way into Victor Oladipo’s hands.

It happened to be one of those nights for the Thunder, in a 123-102 win over the Toronto Raptors, as the ball short hopped directly between the legs of a Raptors defender, skipped into Oladipo’s mitts and seconds later was being dropped through the hoop.

Just watch Russ @ work. 12p-11a-6r and this swipe in the first half.

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A LOT of people are talking about this pass & this play. Including Russ and Victor. #ThunderUp

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“I didn’t even know if he was passing it to me or Taj,” Oladipo described. “I honestly just looked down. I saw him throw it. I didn’t see how he threw it. I looked down and the ball was in my hands. I just laid it up. It was crazy.”

“I just saw (Oladipo) and Taj (Gibson) running. They had been running all night and it’s my job to make the game easier for those guys,” Westbrook shrugged. “It got through a little traffic.”

The bucket was the play that capped an 18-6 second quarter Thunder run in which Westbrook scored or assisted on every single Thunder point, part of an absolutely masterful 28-minute performance in which the Thunder All-Star point guard racked up his 34th triple-double of the season and 71st of his career.

Highlight play after highlight play marked the second quarter stretch, as Westbrook hit Steven Adams for buckets in the lane, made a crafty pass to a cutting Andre Roberson and knocked down a pair of deep three-pointers in addition to a pair of pull-up jumpers. For good measure, Westbrook found Oladipo on one of their patented backdoor alley-oop layup connections, cementing an 11-assist first half for Westbrook, and 16 total for the team.

“They are an aggressive team and they like to trap,” Westbrook said. “My job was to use that to my advantage, take on two people and make sure other guys get open.”

As it has been all season, it was just the numbers 24 points, 10 rebounds and 16 assists. It was the manner in which Westbrook got them, and the fact that it was all done in pursuit of one thing – a win.

The Thunder is now 28-6 this season when Westbrook registers a triple-double, and it’s usually an indicator that the Thunder’s leader has sorted out the pace, tempo and flow of the game. Manipulating it to his will, Westbrook set a tone for the game through his playmaking, keeping Raptors’ heads turning all over the court as he got teammates involved. Andre Roberson scored 13 points, Taj Gibson and Steven Adams each had 10 and Enes Kanter chipped in 14 off the bench.

Can you feel this one?

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Victor Oladipo continued his torrid shooting streak continued as he rattled off 23 points in 26 minutes on 9-for-15 shooting, including a 3-for-3 mark from behind the arc. It was the defense, however, that caused the offense to play downhill the whole night.

By holding Toronto to 41.7 percent shooting through three quarters and allowing just four fast break points (zero through the first three-and-a-half quarters), the Thunder kept the Raptors in front of them all night long. The game was over entering the third quarter, with the Thunder holding a 97-70 edge. Head Coach Billy Donovan never had to play his starters the rest of the way.

Russ: "We were locked in defensively tonight." Victor: "We defended our butts off tonight."

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“We did a good job defensively, just playing 48 minutes on both sides of the ball and made an impact on that end,” Westbrook explained.

“We defended our butts off today,” Oladipo said more emphatically. “Collectively as a group we did it for 48 minutes and that’s the reason why we were successful.”

Repeated defensive stops led to Thunder scoring bursts throughout the night, particularly by the starting group. In the first quarter it was a 12-2 Thunder run mid-way through the first quarter that included five straight assisted baskets, including three by Westbrook.

In the third quarter, when the Thunder truly ran away with this one, it was a 23-8 run that the starters racked up that put this one away for good. The Thunder ended up with 33 assists on 47 made shots, while knocking down 53.4 percent from the field and 14-of-25 (56.0 percent) three-point attempts.

“We were able to get some consecutive stops and get out in transition and then we got going and were able to increase the lead to close the third,” Donovan said. “We played with a high level of intensity from start to finish.”

Highlights: Thunder defeats Raptors - 3/16/17

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By the Numbers

14-4 – The Thunder’s fast break points advantage for the game, after holding the Raptors to zero transition points in the first three quarters

17-1 – The Thunder’s edge in second chance points on the night, as it held Toronto to just six offensive rebounds

33 – Assists for the Thunder, a season-high, including 16 by Russell Westbrook which was one more than the Raptors registered as a team

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The Last Word

“I was really pleased with the way we came out and played… Getting back in transition, shot discipline in terms of trying to make them take tough shots, we rebounded the ball well and then offensively, 33 assists, we were unselfish and made the extra pass.” - Head Coach Billy Donovan

Even the big Kiwi had to smile at this. #ThunderBasketball

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