The Toronto Raptors were outclassed in a matchup of two of the hottest teams in the NBA. Toronto was 12-2 in their last 14 heading into the contest while the Oklahoma City Thunder had won five straight and were 8-2 in their last 10 coming in.
With the win, the Thunder improve to 12-3 in the month of December. The loss drops Toronto another game behind Boston in the Eastern Conference and gives them their second two-game losing streak of the season.
The Big Three
The difference in the game was the Thunder’s stars were far superior to the Raptors’. That’s really all you need to know about how the game was decided.
The best and most intense player on the court was Westbrook. After instigating a skirmish with Jonas Valanciunas after Westbrook wasn’t willing to give up the basketball to the centre during a dead ball situation, the reigning MVP used his rage to fuel his team to victory.
Westbrook finished with 30 points, 13 assists, and eight rebounds. Since 2014-15 Westbrook now has scored 30-plus points and 10-plus assists in 50 games. That’s the most in the NBA.
DeRozan off the mark
DeMar DeRozan made more three-pointers last week than he did in his first two seasons combined culminating in him being named the East’s player of the week.
This week he’s struggling to hit anything. After a poor performance the night before, DeRozan struggled once again Wednesday. The Raptors all-star finished with 17 points on 4-of-16 shooting, 0-for-3 from three-point range and was a minus-18 on the night.
The last two games mark the third and fourth times this season that he has had more field goal attempts than points in a game.
The saving grace for the Raptors was once again their bench.
Dwane Casey started the year sticking with a 12-man rotation. For the better part of the game Casey kept his rotation to 10, only playing Norman Powell and Lucas Nogueira off the bench late in the second half.
The only reason the Raptors were in the game early was the 13-0 bench-point advantage for the Raptors in the first quarter. Once Casey called a timeout and made substitutions the second unit went on a 15-0 run to close that opening frame. That was extended to 24-4 bench points in favour of Toronto in the first half.
Toronto finished with 50 points from reserves in comparison to Oklahoma City’s 19. Five of the Raptors’ seven bench players finished with a positive plus/minus despite the fact the team lost by double digits. DeRozan’s minus-18 was the best plus/minus a raptors starter was able to muster.
More time for Miles
The best player off the bench and probably best Raptors player period was C.J. Miles.
Miles took Powell’s normal spot in the bench-unit rotation. He has has averaged 18 minutes per game this year, which has dropped to 16 per in his last 10 coming into Wednesday’s action when he ended up playing 22 minutes versus the Thunder.
The extra time for the marksman paid dividends as he made six three-pointers, tying a season high. All 12 of Miles’ shots were from there-point range, a major reason why he was so efficient, scoring 20 points on only 12 shots.
Powell plays less and struggles more
Powell checked in for the first time in the final minute of the third quarter. He immediately missed a box out against Patrick Patterson defensively that led to a second-chance three-pointer and then missed a runner at the buzzer offensively.
It looked like Powell might be a DNPCD with Miles playing so well, but the veteran sharpshooter eventually was winded in the second half giving Powell a pathway to play 10 minutes.
Powell finished 1-for-6 from the field, 0-for-4 from three and, uncharacteristically, failed to register a steal or a rebound. More importantly, he didn’t look like his confident self, attacking the basket.
The struggles offensively aren’t new. In his last four games Powell is shooting under 30 per cent both from the field and from three. After starting the season in the starting lineup, it bears watching how far down the rotation Powell falls if he continues to struggle.
Patterson worse off
Sometimes the deals you don’t do are the best decisions made.
The Raptors didn’t re-sign fan-favourite Patterson this off-season and he, instead, signed a three-year deal with the Thunder. The Thunder had pegged Patterson to possibly start before they traded for Carmelo Anthony but even afterwards thought he’d be a nice role player on a championship contender. So far, he’s struggled mightily.
Patterson is averaging just 3.2 points and 1.9 rebounds per contest this season. In the last 10 games, he’s shooting just 37.8 per cent from the field. In the month of December, he’s averaging just 0.6 assists per game.
In 17 minutes against his old team, Patterson was 0-for-3 from the field with two rebounds and was a minus-6. Patterson has struggled to bounce back from off-season knee surgery.
Toronto gets to head home and play the league-worst Atlanta Hawks at home Friday.
The Raptors only have one more Western Conference road game this season, against Minnesota, in January.