I’m not sure if it was due to the Thunder missing Kevin Durant, but you could tell by the Raptors’ body language early on that they believed this was a game they could win. Over the last couple of years, there have been too many nights when you couldn’t say that.
Toronto came out of the gates aggressive and got running, a style of play they have had success with this season. The quick pace of the game got a solid Friday night crowd rowdy and energetic, and the Raps fed off of that energy.
Andrea Bargnani got off to another good start, and the first half, overall, was good from a Raptors perspective. However, a second quarter lapse and some Sonny Weems turnovers had the Thunder up seven at the break.
Then, as if they believed they were the better team, the Raptors simply came out and dominated the second half, taking it to the Thunder for a consistent 24 minutes. The third quarter, in particular, was the difference-maker, as Toronto outscored Oklahoma City 34-18 in that decisive third period.
Much of the credit for the third quarter explosion has to go to Jose Calderon. Jose had the Raptors running, and did his best to get everyone involved, throwing perfect lobs for Sonny Weems, Amir Johnson, DeMar DeRozan and Ed Davis.
Jose (and Jerryd Bayless) also deserves credit for working his butt off on the defensive end tonight, keeping Russell Westbrook as contained as possible. Calderon has been better defensively of late, and he deserves praise for that improvement, in addition to the way he is running the Raptors’ offence.
Those who have read my stuff over the last few years know I have often been critical of Jose, especially his defensive inabilities. But I’ll definitely give him his credit when it’s due, and right now it’s more than due.
Bargnani also continued his improved play, notching his first double-double of the season by adding 12 rebounds to his 26-point outburst.
Leandro Barbosa got in on the fun by netting 22 points on 7-of-12 shooting in just 26 minutes. You often hear of guys who can score in bunches, but there is perhaps no one who does it like Leandro.
No matter how you square this one up, the Raptors picked up an impressive victory with another total team effort. Sure, it’s easy to say the Raps grabbed win no. 8 because Durant wasn’t on the floor. But admit it, even without KD, most of you still probably assumed another loss was on the way.
Raptors Player of the Game: Andrea Bargnani – 42 Min, 26 Pts, 11-20 FG, 1-3 3Pt, 3-4 FT, 12 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Stl
Thunder Player of the Game: Russell Westbrook – 32 Min, 20 Pts, 9-19 FG, 0-1 3Pt, 2-2 FT, 3 Reb, 7 Ast, 2 Stl