If you were anywhere near a television screen that happened to be playing the Toronto Raptors host the Oklahoma City Thunder, chances are you're not going to be reading this. I'll break it down below for those who didn't watch it, but to some it up in one word: STINKER.
Coming into the game, the Thunder had swept six Eastern Conference teams and were looking to make the Raptors their seventh victim. The last time these two teams squared off, the Raptors were without Chris Bosh, and they lost by 20 points. By comparison, that game was a thing of beauty. The Raptors were demolished in this one by a score of 115-89.
What started out as relatively close first six minutes of the first quarter, ended with the Thunder leading 39-25 after one. By the time half-time rolled around the Raptors had given up a hideous 71 points. What's worse is that OKC didn't shoot a great percentage from the field (41.5%). They did most of their damage from the free-throw line (+15) and with second chance points (+17). The Raptors gave up 15 more rebounds at the half including 10 more offensive rebounds. Basically, the Raptors once again lost in those categories that are usually used to measure heart and hustle.
Jay Triano was given a technical foul in the dying seconds of the first half but, if you were watching the game, you just knew that it wasn't going to make a difference. The Raptors interior defense was its usual, laugable self. On one play, Serge Ibaka delivered what might end up being the putback slam of the year. Off a rare Kevin Durant brick, he went up to throw it down right on Amir Johnson's head. It was the perfect example of what Raptors fans have come to expect from their team. A line off of 50 Cent's "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" album comes to mind, "You'se a poptart sweetheart, you soft in the middle." I know, I know, the Raptors are soft on the outside too, but they don't make poptarts like that.
The Raptors poptart-like defense coupled with the Thunder's youthful energy made this game one of the most boo-worthy performances of the year. However, if you were watching it strictly from the perspective of an NBA fan, you couldn't help but appreciate the team spirit exhibited by the Thunder. They were showing a sense of togetherness and genuine excitement that winning teams often have. Every off-season it seems that we comment on the improvement of the Eastern Conference. Yet, every season it seems that the West is more dominant than the last. Just as Jack and Matt mentioned during the broadcast, if the Thunder were in the Eastern Conference, they'd most likely be sitting pretty in the second spot.
My good friend Dave Vuckovac was a huge fan of the Seattle Supersonics, and I know on nights like these he has to be hurting. Watching this Thunder team do so well after years of the Sonics sucking can't be good for the heart. Could you imagine if the Raps were to pack up and head to Buffalo and then become one of the most exciting teams in the league? It would get ugly and that's putting it very lightly.
Just to add a few more Raptor-related notes: Hedo continued to suck- picking up quick fouls in the first quarter. The Thunder are the EXACT kind of team he'll never be able to play against. If you could name me any swingman in the league that Hedo has an athletic advantage over, I'll give you a poptart. And keep in mind I'm one of his bigger supporters...but that's not saying much. Also, the second most disappointing player this year has to be Marco Belinelli. Yes, he dropped 12 points in this laugher but when's the last time he's strung together two or three good games? You'll have to go as far back as January 22-27 for the last three games where he scored in double figures in three straight. The ONLY thing he has going for him is that he resembles Rocky Balboa. Aside from that, there's NO reason why he should be taking ANY minutes away from Sonny Weems or DeMar DeRozan. He should just sit on the bench and yell, "Adriaaaann!" every time Andrea scores.
Lastly, I've said it before but I'll say it again: Amir Johnson needs to be starting for this team. The change at the point guard spot has no effect on their success. Actually, scratch that, starting Jose makes the starting unit worse. The change needs to come up front. Amir and Andrea both grabbed the same number of rebounds against OKC but Johnson did it in six fewer minutes. And please don't use the excuse of Andrea's point production because the bench needs an infusion of offense courtesy of Bargs more than the starters do. Make the change, Triano. There's no reason why Amir should only be averaging 17 minutes per game on this team.
Aside from Ibaka's puke-worthy putback slam, the highlight of the night came in the fourth. It didn't happen on the court, let's face it, anything that happened at the end of this one didn't matter to anyone not named Marcus Banks. It was when Jack and Matt were discussing Drake. The conversation between these two is always much more enjoyable than the dialogue between Leo and Matt. Jack should call every Raptors game and Leo should focus on Team Canada. Jack's a solid broadcaster through and through. The ONLY reason Leo is employed is he just happens to be one of the few retired Canadian NBA players this side of the border.
That's all from me, here's hoping tomorrow the Raptors take care of business in the future home of John Wall/Evan Turner.