Inspired Fourth Quarter Comeback, But Thunder Falls in OT - OKC 114, TOR 123

The night started with a celebration. For a moment, it seemed the faithful inside Chesapeake Energy Arena might get to have an encore. 

On the night the Thunder retired it’s first player’s number, the 4 worn by Nick Collison, a late fourth quarter charge made what had been a constant Toronto Raptors lead over the first 40 minutes begin to evaporate. By holding the explosive Raptors to just 3 points in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter, the Thunder set a tone for the final frame. 

Despite only scoring 6 points of its own during that opening part of the quarter, the Thunder hung around long enough to sprint to the finish to tie the game at 110 with a 13-2 closing run, fueled by a made three-pointer and three free throws by Paul George then a coast to coast driving layup for Russell Westbrook with 4.8 seconds to go. In honor of Collison, who sat courtside during the game next to Thunder Chairman Clay Bennett, Dennis Schröder took a charge on Pascal Siakam on the Raptors’ final attempt. Despite losing Paul George to a foul out, the Thunder seemed to be riding the momentum and emotion from inside the building into the extra period. 

"It was just aggressiveness defensively. We did a good job of using our bodies, our hands, to get stops when we needed to," said Westbrook. 

The Thunder got the ball to start the extra five minutes, and possessed it for the first 50 seconds of overtime. After a jump ball, a save inbounds, a clock stoppage and three missed shots, the Thunder’s final attempt on that flurry was a chip shot that couldn’t go in, taking the wind completely out of the sails as the team battled on. While the defense continued to grind, as it had in the fourth quarter when it held the Raptors to just 18 points on 31.8 percent shooting, the Thunder went just 1-for-10 from the field in overtime and all those misses led to flowing possessions. Toronto scored the first 9 points of the extra frame, and that was all it needed to seal a 123-114 win on the Thunder’s home floor. 

"It was because of the position we put ourselves in," said center Steven Adams. "If we execute properly and get the right movement for them on defense, we'll get the right shot. It was good that we managed to get some offensive rebounds here and try to make something of it. Once we get the possesion, try to get a quality one. Something downhill, rotation, kick." 

Head Coach Billy Donovan’s squad will get a chance to repay the favor in just two nights as these teams square off up in Toronto for a rematch on Friday. Looking at the first half of this game, there’s a lot for the Thunder to clean up, and it can look to the fourth quarter for the remedy. In the opening 12 minutes of this one the Raptors ripped off 39 points behind 5-for-8 three-point shooting, including three from Danny Green. Many of Toronto’s shots from behind the arc emanated from dribble penetration down the baseline and under the basket, the old Steve-Nash-style assists flying back out to the perimeter from down around the hoop. 

"We were just a step late. They were moving the ball," Westbrook said. "When you're chasing the ball all night it's tough, especially when they're making shots. I thoguht we picked it up after the first quarter."  

That hot shooting from Toronto persisted through the third quarter, while George battled foul trouble and everyone not named Westbrook for the Thunder struggled to make shots. In fact, the Thunder point guard went 16-for-29 (5-for-10 from 3) for 42 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists, but the rest of his teammates shot just 27-for-74 (36.5 percent) for the night, including 8-for-33 (24.2 percent) from deep. The result was that for most of the game, the formula was titled in Toronto’s direction and in the third quarter, the Raptors led by 20.

The Thunder kept hanging around, however, using an 8-0 burst featuring six straight points from Westbrook and a Schröder jump shot to pull from 19 down to just an 11-point margin with 2:19 to go in the third quarter. Staying within striking distance, the Thunder was able to lay in wait until Toronto finally went cold from behind the arc. Despite hitting 14 threes in the game, the Raptors went just 1-for-11 in the fourth quarter, impacted by an urgent and aggressive Thunder defensive effort.

"We were very locked in," said Adams. "You don't even pay attention to the scoreboard. You just know the job. I can't give you too much, but it felt like we were rotating, well, closing out well, contesting well and just rebounding well off that." 

Ultimately that charge was for naught, diminished by a 15-for-29 (51.7 percent) free throw shooting performance by the Thunder, with a lot of points left on the board. That wasn’t a problem in the overtime, but every missed point is critical when the score is ultimately tied after regulation.

In the end, without the win, Thunder fans had to settle for just one perfect moment tonight: when Collison’s banner unfurled, and he emotionally addressed the crowd in thanks for the tremendous honor.

"I love Nick like a brother and am just appreciative to be able to play with him his whole time while I was here," said Westbrook. 

"It was beautiful, eh," quipped Adams, a player Collison mentored for years. "It was really good of the organization too to retire his jersey. It says a lot about them."