Raptors’ explosive attack builds adequate cushion to hold off Thunder

Norm-Powell

Toronto Raptors guard Norman Powell (24) shoots as Oklahoma City Thunder center Justin Patton (13) defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020, in Oklahoma City. (Sue Ogrocki / AP)

With seven different players who scored in double-digits and by shooting a scorching 61.2 per cent from the floor, the Toronto Raptors managed to hold on to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 130-121 in a shootout at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Wednesday night.

This was an evening that saw Marc Gasol return to the Raptors after missing the last 12 games with a hamstring injury and start in a jumbo-sized lineup along with Serge Ibaka, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby and Kyle Lowry.

With Gasol back in the fold, the only key Raptor left still sidelined is Fred VanVleet, an encouraging sign for a Toronto team that has been decimated by injuries throughout the season.

Here are a few takeaways from a wild and entertaining win for the Raptors in OKC.

Offensive explosion

As previously mentioned, the Raptors were spectacular offensively.

Their 61.2 per cent mark from the field has only been matched or surpassed 10 times in franchise history and ranks as Raptors’ sixth-best shooting performance ever. Additionally, it was only the 18th time they’ve ever scored 130 points or more in a game, and just the 11th time in a non-overtime affair.

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With these gaudy numbers came impressive individual performances from the Raptors. Seven different players scored in double-digits. Here’s a quick glance at what each of them did:

Norman Powell: Powell had 23 points on 9-for-11 shooting and was 3-for-4 from three-point range. He was the most consistent scorer for Toronto all night and looks to not have missed a beat since his own return from injury.

Pascal Siakam: Siakam finished with 21 points on 9-for-15 shooting. Unlike the rust that showed from the second quarter onward Sunday, Siakam looked like he had found his legs and was much more comfortable Wednesday.

OG Anunoby: Anunoby also had 21 points, but perhaps more impressive was the five assists and five rebounds he collected Wednesday. This was a nice follow-up effort after a rough outing Sunday against the San Antonio Spurs.

Kyle Lowry: Lowry had 17 points and eight assists, and appeared to ice the game when he hit a decisive, driving lay-up right down the middle of the lane with 2:20 left to play and then hit a jumper with 1:25 left to give Toronto a seven-point cushion. This came after it looked as though the Raptors might blow what was a 30-point lead in the fourth.

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Serge Ibaka: Ibaka finished with 15 points on 7-for-11 shooting, but his best came in the first frame when he had 13 points on perfect 6-for-6 shooting.

Marc Gasol: Gasol was excellent in his first game back from injury, scoring 15 points while dishing out five dimes. It looks like the time off did wonders for Gasol as he appeared engaged, energized and aggressive with his shot – something that will surely be music to the ears of Raptors fans.

Terence Davis: Davis had 12 points and seven rebounds Wednesday. His biggest moment in the game came in the third quarter when he hit a three-pointer near the end of the third quarter to help the Raptors maintain their lead as the Thunder threatened.

A tale of two halves

The Raptors led Wednesday’s game by as much as 30 points, but nearly saw that lead evaporate in the fourth quarter.

Toronto started the game very strong, scoring 38 points in the first quarter on nearly 70 per cent shooting before finishing up the opening half with a 73-55 advantage.

In the third quarter, the Raptors got sloppy with the ball, turning it over seven times allowing OKC to crawl back into the game and enter the fourth down only 14.

Then in the final period, it was the Raptors’ defence that let them down as they allowed the Thunder to put up a 38-point frame of their own and saw that 30-point gap shrink to as few as three points with 2:09 left to play.

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It made for great entertainment with the game turning from a laugher into a nail-biter down the stretch, but this should still be concerning for Toronto as it’s becoming a trend for the team.

Had OKC managed to complete the comeback, this would’ve been the third time in four games where the Raptors would’ve blown a fourth-quarter lead.

The two other games in question are the ones against the Portland Trail Blazers last week and Sunday’s game versus the San Antonio Spurs. In each of those matchups, it was thought that the major point of contention for the Raptors was their poor fourth-quarter offence. However, this growing issue of poor final-frame play may have more to do with the Raptors’ defence.

The offence was fine Wednesday, but the Raptors allowed OKC to score 33 points in the final quarter, something very similar to the 32 and 36 spots, respectively, in the fourth that the Blazers and Spurs had against the Raptors recently.

SGA stays hot

It wasn’t the 20-20-10 triple-double masterpiece of his previous game, nor was it a 32-point performance like he had in Toronto a few days before the calendar flipped to 2020, but Canadian Shai Gilgeous-Alexander still had himself a strong night against the Raptors on Wednesday.

The Hamilton, Ont., native concluded his evening with 21 points, six rebounds and six assists while shooting 6-for-10 from the field and 2-for-2 from deep.

His free throws with 2:09 left in the game brought the Thunder within three points and he was instrumental in getting the Thunder back in a position to possibly make a historic comeback, dropping four dimes in the fourth quarter alone.

Despite the strong outing, this seemed like a relatively ordinary line for Gilgeous-Alexander. Perhaps, the best compliment we can now give to the rising star as he continues his breakout sophomore campaign.

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