The Toronto Raptors became the first Eastern conference team to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder this season, also ending their undefeated run at home. However, despite playing smarter and better basketball in the final moments, getting some big plays from Jonas Valanciunas, Kevin Durant made it seem like it was all about luck.
Unfortunately for the Thunder, it had to do with the same problems that come out from time to time in their game and style. In the regular season, talent usually wins out, but in a playoff series, we’ve seen time and time again how the Thudner’s lack of gameplan except give the ball to Westbrook and Durant, letting them run and do whatever, might prove a bit more costly.
Losses happen in this league. They beat us fair and square, you know? We missed some shots, too. I think our defense was good. They got some shots late in the fourth quarter that helped them a little bit but I think our defense was good. We were swarming them and they hit some tough ones, too, but we missed some good looks.
Only the first five words make any sense. There’s no reason to make too much of one loss, especially with the Thunder doing so well. Even if they did lose at home, finishing undefeated at home is virtually impossible, or still hasn’t been done. However, the rest, the moment Durant starts talking about making shots, is simply letting himself, his teammates and his head coach off the hook.
It wasn’t about making shots as the Raptors split the Thunder’s defense for a Valanciunas hook shot with Ibaka not getting the help he needed from Kevin Durant on that play. A minute later Kyle Lowry hit a wide open three with Kevin Durant forgetting to cover him for the shot. That’s not making shots, that’s simply being terrible on defense. And about the Thunder not making their shots? With the game tied at 98-98, Russell Westbrook stopped thinking. Instead, he decided to take the entire Raptors defense on his back, leaping to the rim with Valanciunas and Amir Johnson waiting waiting for him. Westbrook got blocked, and the Thunder went on to lose 104-98.
This wasn’t about great offense or performance through the game. The Raptors simply made the right, smart plays when it mattered the most. Kyle Lowry, reportedly on the trading block, scored 22 points, adding 7 rebounds, 9 assists and four steals. Amir Johnson, DeMar DeRozan and even John Salmons coming off the bench had big moments in the ending, as the Raptors won despite shooting only 39.6% from the field.
Kevin Durant and the Thunder were worst. They were lazy on offense, shooting 36.8%, as Durant was only 5-of-16, making most of his bread from the line. The ball didn’t move more than once or twice in each possession. Things like this happen, as teams let their guards down at some point during the season, especially after nine consecutive wins. However, ignoring patterns that emerge time after time in every bad game is simply setting yourself up for disappointment, and being arrogant instead of accepting when a game ends is a bad symptom.