Woodward, Okla. —
By Michael Kinney
CNHI News Service
OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma City didn’t forget how to play team basketball. Even though it looked like it in its loss to Atlanta on Sunday.
Tuesday night, the Thunder rolled over the struggling Toronto Raptors 108-88 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“We had a tough loss last game,” Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. “But we are not a team that is going to put our head down and run from what we need to work on. We are a solid team. I thought we did a good job tonight.”
Toronto coach Dwane Casey wasn’t as impressed with his team. He had hoped his squad would rise to the occasion of playing the defending Western Conference Champions on their own court. He didn’t get the effort he had wanted.
“It was a learning experience for us to go against one of the favorites of the NBA,” Casey said. “It was an opportunity for us to come out, compete, have fun and let the chips fall where they may. But the compete part we forgot.”
While the win silences critics of Oklahoma City for one night, the struggles continue for Toronto (1-3). It lost in every facet of the game.
The Thunder had six players score in double figures led by Russell Westbrook, who had 19 points on 5-of-12 shooting. Serge Ibaka added 17 while Kevin Durant chipped in with 15 on only 11 shots.
Jonas Valanciunas paced Toronto with 18 and Andrea Bargnani had 16 points and six rebounds.
On a night when they had to compete with the presidential election for their fans’ attention, the Thunder came out animated, intense and angry.
“We wanted to come out with a defensive mindset,” Brooks said. “We take a lot of pride in what we do.”
It started with Thabo Sefolosha hitting his first three 3-pointers of the night and Durant throwing down dunks on top of Bargnani.
But it was the Thunder’s defense that provided the biggest spark. They forced the Raptors into 33-percent shooting from the field in the first half as they jumped out to a 33-17 advantage early in second quarter.
“The Thunder had something to do with that,” Casey said. “They were a different team tonight than they were Sunday night. And we knew that. We knew they were going to come out aggressive, focused. And we had to meet that type of intensity, and we didn’t. That was disappointing for a young team.”
The Raptors tried to go to Kyle Lowry to break the team out of its cold shooting spell. But the combination of Westbrook and Eric Manor locked down Toronto’s leading scorer on the season. He was held to 2 points and didn’t play in the second half after spraining his ankle.
The loss of Lowry was a major blow to any chances the Raptors had of making a comeback.
Toronto tried to ride Valanciunas back into the game. But that wasn’t enough to contend with a Thunder squad that was hitting on all cylinders.
Oklahoma City increased its lead in the third quarter as it continued to spread the ball around. They finished the night with 24 assists. Their season high is 27.
“We started the game off with a lot of intensity,” Durant said. “That’s what we need every game from here on out. We fed off our crowd, the bench was up and excited. Guys were moving the basketball and helping each other on defense.”