OKC got it going early with 2 scores in the paint and had a 4-0 lead to get this one under way. Bargnani would draw contact and get to the line making both to get the Raptors on the board. That sparked an 8-0 Raptor run that featured a couple jumpers from Jose and set up Demar for the slam dunk. I watched Demar warming up prior to the game and you could see him feeling more confident in his hamstring. He confirmed later in the locker room it was feeling much better and it had showed in this performance vs the Wizards and was again tonight early in this one.
After taking that 8-4 lead the Raptors would not trail for the rest of the quarter. It remained close throughout the first but the Raptors were doing enough to stay in front. The largest lead they would have was 6 with the score 16-10 after back to back Bargnani buckets. Calderon and Bargnani were leading the charge. After hooking up Demar for a dunk he would also find Amir Johnson for an Alley Opp slam. Andrea had 10 points and 3 rebounds in the Quarter in 9 minutes of action and Calderon in same amount of floor time had 4 points 4 assists and a steal. Westbrook had 4 points as well and 3 assists and 1 steal. Jose with a slight edge in point guard battle. James Harden seemed to give the Thunder a bit of a spark off the bench at the end of the Quarter.But at the end of the first it was Toronto with a 28-25 lead.
D.J White who is becoming one of the Thunder's key players off the bench was able to block Bargnani a couple of times near the beginning of the 2nd. White unfortunately for the Thunder would get injured later in the quarter. Unfortunate for the Raptors was they lost the lead on Collison tip in making it 34-32 Thunder. Another sign of trouble was James Harden. He ended up with 7 in the Quarter that included a 3-ball That made it 47-41 Thunder.
Long time Raptor Morris Peterson checked in to a nice ovation. He was another before the game I managed to talk with and he seems content in his roll mentoring the youngsters on this Thunder team. But he still loves Toronto and feeling is mutual. One of the good guys in Raptor history. Peterson had only played in two games for the Thunder and the last time was on November the 19th. Another game with no Durant in which the Thunder hung on to beat the Celtics. That was followed by these Raptors beating Boston as well on the Sunday. Shifting back to Peterson he had just played 7 minutes all season and had yet to record a point for his new team that acquired him in a draft day trade with New Orleans. It would not come till the 4th but Peterson would record some points. A classy move by Scott Brooks giving Mo-P some playing time in his former home of Toronto.
The Thunder would close the half strong getting the lead all the way to 9 but having to settle for a touchdown lead at the half leading 59-52. Westbrook had 10 points 5 assists and couple steals. While Bargnani after a strong first had just 1 point in the second quarter. But had 4 more redounds for a total of 7. Calderon had just 2 more points with 6 but he had 7 assists. Barbosa had 10 off the bench and Harden 11 for the Thunder. Game's high scorer was Jeff Green who had 13 points and just 1 rebound. That is a Bargnani line.
How many times can you remember the Raptors storming out of a half last season to take back control of a game? The answer is probably not that often. Keep in mind this was a Thunder team that needed 3 overtimes to knock off New Jersey. On the same night the Raptors were pounding the Wizards and could afford to rest there players. It was the Young Onez that came out of the locker room on fire. Demar, Sonny and Amir all contributed in turning a 7 point disadvantage into a 1 point advantage in under 3 minutes. It was capped off with a DeRozan alley opp pass with Weems on the finish. Raptors took a 64-63 and they would never trail the rest of the night as it turned out. The Raptors would build the advantage to as high as 11 points and would outscore the Thunder 34-18 in the Quarter and when the dust cleared the Raptors had a 86-77 lead to take to the 4th Quarter.
This was the best quarter of basketball as a collective group from the Young Onez in this entire season. The group accounted for 22 of the Raptors 34 in the Quarter.
The Raptors had no intention of letting the Thunder off the hook. OKC was also starting to slowly run out of gas in this game. The effects of that Triple OT win was starting to show on this team. If they had been able to have Kevin Durant in this game, he would have helped a lot in the late going of this one. But K.D was not coming in to save the day.
Raptors as a group had done a nice job keeping Russell Wesbrook under control with 14 points and 7 assists . While Calderon was having a brilliant night with 15 assists and Andrea Bargnani already had his 1st double double of the season in the books after 3. It promoted me to ask on Twitter what was more shocking the Bargnani double double, or the game previous when the Raptors had 101 points after 3. Tonight reminded me of something Jack Armstrong said in his recent interview in the DNB. He said it was not making excuses for Andrea. but with Reggie Evans on the floor and some of the other guys on this roster the opportunities he has to get rebounds are vastly reduced. Now with no Reggie the rebound total for Bargnani has been on the rise. Bargnani mentioned the loss of Evans as the reason for his improvement in numbers in the post game scrum. He said that not just him, but everyone had to make a effort to make up for the loss of Reggie on the glass. Raptors would get the lead to 14 and it would slide to 9 late before the Raptors tromped on the gas petal and finished this off for the 111-99 win.
Post game I spoke with Demar DeRozan about the 3rd Quarter for him and the other Young Onez. Well to be more correct I slipped and said Young Gunz and corrected myself. I said that it was like an infomercial for the group and asked if they were feeding off each other. Got a smile and a bit of a laugh, not sure if it was for the Young Gunz slip or the infomercial line. Once that was over Demar had this to say about that.
Demar DeRozan: "Yeah, stuff like that you got feed off it. We were feeding off the crowd. Just having the opportunity to get on a run. We took advantage of it."
Jay Triano a couple games ago vs Atlanta was brutally honest saying his starting unit 1 through 5 had been beat. I asked if tonight was a flip of that script, as the starters played well outscoring the Thunder starters 72-56.
Triano "Possibly yeah, I would like to take back Sonny's turnovers in the first half. But he cleaned that up in the second half and had 8 points and just 1 turnover. Which was big. Amir played well, Andrea played well, I thought Demar was solid and Jose was good."
It was quite the turn around for the starting 5 in just a couple games. The Raptors have had back to back impressive wins after a horrible loss. When they had that bad loss to the Wizards they rolled off 4 wins. Now after a terrible loss to Atlanta they have made it 2 in a row. A re-match from opening night awaits on Sunday, and if the Raptors are starting to believe they can be a playoff team a win over the Knicks would be pretty important. Did I say playoffs? Long way off yet but the Raptors are ahead of last season record wise, and the only other thing different is the expectation levels. But this group seems to have faith in themselves, a lot more than anyone else did prior to this season. Watching the Cavs get demolished by the Heat was a clear sign the Raptors have a lot more talent on the Post Bosh Raptors in comparison to the Post James Cavs. While 8 and 11 is not cause for parades, it is a lot better than almost anyone expected. In an Eastern Conference of under achievers the Raptors are in the mix for now to compete for a playoff spot. Wins over OKC, Boston and Orlando only help the Raptors confidence grow.
James Borbath (Dino Blogger) Reporting From The Penthouse At The ACC