Posted on March 18, 2018, by Travis Pulver
Toronto entered the game having won their last 11 games. Oklahoma City as riding a five-game streak of its own. Obviously, the Raptors have been playing exceptional basketball of late as have the Thunder. To beat the Raptors, the Thunder would need to do like they usually do against the best competition in the league.
They’d have to play up to the level of their opponent— and they did.
Oklahoma City got off to a great start in the first quarter as the starting five only missed one shot (17-18). But their 40-34 lead didn’t last long as the Raptors opened the second quarter on a 20-4 run to take a ten-point lead with 6:02 until halftime.
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However, the Thunder had no intention of letting them hold that lead and went on a 22-10 run over the last six minutes of the quarter giving them a 66-64 advantage at the half.
Toronto took the lead early on in the third but was unable to extend it beyond a few points. Oklahoma City was eventually able to retake it. But with a three-pointer by DeMar DeRozan with 1.1 seconds on the clock, the Raptors were in front, 98-97, heading into the fourth.
The game remained close throughout the final quarter. Delon Wright tied the game up at 125-125 after making a driving layup with 54.9 seconds to play. But Russell Westbrook responded with four points giving the Thunder a 129-125 lead with 12.3 seconds to play.
It would not be easy, but the Raptors were still in the game. But instead of attempting a last-second desperation play, Toronto committed three technical fouls which allowed the Thunder to ice the game. DeRozan, Serge Ibaka, and head coach Dwayne Casey were all ejected for arguing calls.
Kyle Lowry had already fouled out a few minutes earlier.
Paul George closed out the scoring by making all three techs to make the final score 132-125, Oklahoma City.
Westbrook turned in another excellent game with his fifth triple-double in a row (37 points, 13 rebounds, and 14 assists). Steve Adams made all seven of his shots in the first en route to a 25-point night. George chipped in 22, and Carmelo Anthony had 15.
Kyle Lowry turned in a double-double before fouling out (22 points and 10 rebounds). But it was DeRozan who led the team in scoring with 24 points. CJ Miles and Delon Wright each turned in 15 off the bench.
The Thunder will have another tough challenge on their hands when they take the court Tuesday night against the Celtics. Toronto will try to get back on the right side of the scoreboard when they take on the Orlando Magic (also Tuesday night).
For much of the season, it has been considered a given that Houston Rockets superstar James Harden will be named MVP. However, while Harden is as deserving of the award this year as he was last year, Russell Westbrook has been quietly building a strong case.
As of Sunday’s game, he is averaging 25.2 points, 10.2 assists, and 9.7 rebounds a game. A few really strong games could lock up an unprecedented second season averaging a triple-double. Or he could just average a triple-double (with 11+ rebounds) the rest of the way. That’s all.
He said pretty much what you’d expect him to say after dropping 37-13-14 in Sunday’s game (ESPN): “I am a man on a mission. We’ve got to take care of business. This time of year, it’s time to turn it up a notch.”
Averaging a triple-double may not be enough to earn him MVP honors this season though with the Rockets likely going to be the No. 1 seed in the West this year.