Game Recap: Thunder 110, Raptors 109

The Big Picture

The Thunder found itself in yet another late-game, clutch-time battle following a dramatic game of runs against the Raptors. A game-altering 3-pointer with 9.4 seconds left from Mike Muscala and a game-sealing block from Darius Bazley allowed the Thunder to escape the North with a 110-109 victory. Canadian natives Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Lu Dort led the way for the Thunder in scoring with 26 and 22 points respectively, but it was a full-team effort on both ends to stave off the Raptors’ fourth quarter punch and seal the win.

Moments from the 48

Clutch-Time Battle After the Thunder built up an 11-point lead following the third quarter, the Raptors answered with a run of their own fueled by 3-pointers. Fred VanVleet who had been relatively quiet leading up to the final frame, exploded for 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting from deep to bring the Raptors back in the ball game and force a clutch-time contest.

Down by two points with 18 seconds left, Hamilton, Ontario native Shai Gilgeous-Alexander drove hard into the paint and was immediately swarmed by three red Toronto uniforms. Without hesitation, SGA zipped the ball out to the top of the key where Mike Muscala was waiting, wide open for a 3. The veteran sharpshooter sank the bucket to put the Thunder ahead by one point with 9.4 seconds left.

“I just wanted to try to draw as many guys as I could in,” said Gilgeous-Alexander postgame. “As soon as I saw Mike open, I knew what I had to do.”

“[Shai’s] been doing such a good job all season getting into the paint, being patient finding guys, finishing,” said Muscala. “He was patient in there and he found me.”

The Thunder wasn’t out of the woods yet. The Raptors had the final possession of the night, and the ball was in the red-hot hands of Fred VanVleet. The Raptors’ guard drove the middle of the paint and attempted to float the ball up at the front of the rim but was thwarted by Darius Bazley who slid over to help and swatted the ball away. Toronto’s Justin Champagnie managed to elevate and tip the deflected ball back into the hoop as the buzzer sounded, but after a review from the officials, the basket was ruled no good and the Thunder escaped with the win.

“It was really scary,” said Gilgeous-Alexander on the final review of Champagnie’s basket. “Baze makes a great play, complete effort play. He was great all night, and then that can be taken away but thankfully it wasn’t.”

Momentum-Shifting Third The Thunder went into halftime trailing by 10 as Gary Trent Jr. and Pascal Siakam combined for 35 points in the first half. However, OKC turned the tides behind a mid-quarter 13-0 run to retake the lead. It started on the defensive end for OKC who held the Raptors to just 1-of-10 from the 3-point line in the third and just 12 points overall.

“I thought the defense coming out of halftime was really on point,” said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault. “For the second-straight game, I thought we came in focused on execution and then, settled into the game and gave ourselves a really good run there.”

The Thunder extended its run to 25-3 behind the high-powered offense of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who poured in 16 points in the third quarter alone. The fourth-year guard also went a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line in the frame. By the end of the night. Gilgeous-Alexander led all scorers with 26 points, nine assists, zero turnovers and a 12-for-12 performance from the free throw line.

“I just tried to be aggressive, take what the defense gives me and not force anything,” said Gilgeous-Alexander.

Baze at the Rim Third-year forward Darius Bazley was responsible for OKC’s first six points of the ball game and then bookended the night with the game-saving block. It was a demonstration of the range of his contributions throughout the game on both ends of the floor. Bazley finished with 15 points on an efficient 7-for-8 clip from the field – four of those seven buckets were dunks for the 21-year-old. On the other end, Bazley’s defensive activity not only resulted in a clutch block, but also a diminished performance from Siakam who was held to just seven points in the second half after dropping 16 in the first.

“His activity defensively the last– really all season, but especially the last few games, he's just really hard to score over,” said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault. “I thought the play he made at the end there was a big time”

“His defense has been really good recently and I think with his athleticism and his length, he can be a really good defender and I'm proud of him for that,” said Muscala.

Defensive Discipline Going into the night, the Raptors ranked third in the league in steals per night, but it was the Thunder who led the way in that category on Wednesday. OKC finished the night with a season high 12 steals as four different players logged two or more thefts. In addition, the Thunder came up with several loose balls and critical second chance opportunities late in the game. It was a demonstration of the grit and hustle that was required from the Thunder to not let the game get away from it as Toronto looked to take control in the fourth quarter.

“That's every night. There’s plays that you don't see in the box score: verticals at the rim, charges show up, but loose balls, diving on them, 50/50 plays,” said Gilgeous-Alexander. “We have a few guys on the team that specialize in that. That's a luxury for us every night.”

The Last Word

Coach Daigneault on the win… “The guys just made big time plays tonight. Both teams really, really good game down the stretch. It could have obviously gone either way, but I thought we showed good poise just hanging in there and playing all the way through and giving ourselves the best chance.”Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on the team’s progression… “I know for a fact we're getting better every day and we're learning. What the future holds, I have no clue. I can’t control it. That’s something we do, just stay in the moment, focus on the day to day and try to get better every day. Wherever that takes us, that takes us but we're heading in the right direction for sure.”

What’s Next

The Thunder returns to Oklahoma City for a day off before hitting the hardwood on Friday against the Los Angeles Lakers for the third time this season.