The Oklahoma City Thunder moved to 17-15 on the season after earning a gritty one-point win over the Toronto Raptors Sunday night.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Hamilton, ON) tied a career-high with 32 points, including the go-ahead bucket, to propel Oklahoma City to the win. His backcourt mate, Chris Paul, finished with 25 points (20 in the second half), 11 rebounds and eight assists.
For Toronto, Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet led the way with 20 points apiece while Patrick McCaw (13), Serge Ibaka (12) and Terence Davis (11) each had a major offensive impact. The Raptors fall to 22-11 with the loss.
If you missed any of the action, we've got you covered with some reactions from throughout the night…
Final: Oklahoma City Thunder 98, Toronto Raptors 97
PREVIEW | BOX SCORE | PLAY-BY-PLAY
- Shai wins it for the Thunder
This one put OKC up for good.
🥶 S- OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) December 30, 2019
🥶 A@shaiglalex | #ThunderUp pic.twitter.com/hDbEWV9Osz
- A headscratcher
Down one, Fred VanVleet fails to connect on a long triple, with the rebound falling in OKC's hands.
Toronto seemingly forgets it has a foul to give and the clock winds down to three seconds before it itentionally fouls.
Timeout on the floor.
The Raptors must foul once more, down 98-97 with 3.5 seconds on the clock.
- Not to be outdone…
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander kisses a driving floater off the glass to put OKC up one.
- Steady Freddy
Coolly steps to the line, knocking down two freebies to put Toronto back in the lead.
- WIth one minute remaining in regulation…
OKC has a one-point lead courtesy of Paul.
The Raptors will need to execute will in order to regain the lead.
- Chris Paul leads the league in clutch scoring for a reason
With this one coming down to the wire, it's the perfect time for a reminder that Chris Paul has scored the most clutch points in the league up to this point in the season.
We know the ball will be in either his or Shai Gilgeous-Alexander's hands down the stretch.
- Chris Boucher can ELEVATE
No more need be said
ON HIS HEADTOP pic.twitter.com/uG4em8ZaMg- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) December 30, 2019
Third Quarter: Toronto Raptors 80, Oklahoma City Thunder 76
- Scoring Leaders
Thunder: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander - 28 PTS, 4 REB, 2 AST
Raptors: Fred VanVleet - 18 PTS, 7 AST, 2 REB
Cash money Freddy- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) December 30, 2019
Vote FVV 👉🏽 https://t.co/kQYeprYRUk pic.twitter.com/XdsTPyvAv5
- Will Lowry's foul trouble be an issue?
The good news for Toronto? Kyle Lowry is one of the Raptors scoring leaders with 17. The bad news? He also leads them in fouls committed with four.
This one is likely to come down to the wire, meaning Toronto will need its captain and scoring leader on the floor doing what he does best. Part of what he does best revolves around his scrappiness and ability to do the little things like taking charges.
Lowry might have to be a bit more conservative on the defensive end in the fourth in order to remain available in a close game.
- OKC gets to the line
The Raptors have made five more triples than the Thunder, a difference made up by the free throw discrepancy.
So far, OKC is shooting 18-for-21 (85.7%) from the line while Toronto is shooting just 7-for-7 (100.0%). Aggression from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Steven Adams and Chris Paul has had a hand in the Thunder's free throw proficiency.
- Limited transition for the Raptors
It's no secret that Toronto's offence is at its best when the team gets going on the break; the Raptors lead the league in transition points per game with 18.4.
Tonight's been a different story.
Through three, Toronto has just eight fast break points, meaning its on pace to fall well shy of its average. The Raptors should be encouraged that they are still in command despite such a big part of their offence being impacted.
- CP3 on the boards
The added focus on keeping OKC's bigs off the boards has resulted in Chris Paul pulling down a game-high 10 rebounds through three quarters.
Thanks in part to CP3's efforts, the rebounding battle has remained close, with Toronto leading OKC 36-35.
Paul's 10 boards match a season-high and are just two shy of a career-best that he last recorded in his second season at 21-years-old. Regardless of whether or not he matches that output, it's not a bad night on the boards for the 34-year old point guard.
Halftime: Toronto Raptors 47, Oklahoma City Thunder 47
- Scoring Leaders
Thunder: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander - 20 PTS (8-11 FG), 3 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL
Raptors: Kyle Lowry - 13 PTS (4-9 FG), 2 REB, 2 AST, 1 BLK
- SGA is happy to be home
SGA gets out to 2⃣0⃣ 1st-half points on 8-11 shooting in his hometown! #ThunderUp pic.twitter.com/DgSq9reG7C- NBA (@NBA) December 30, 2019
Hamilton, ON native Shai Gilgeous-Alexander only gets one game at home per year, and he's clearly making the most of it.
The 21-year-old entered the night averaging 19.4 points per game, a figure he's already passed. In 19 minutes of action, Gilgeous-Alexander scored 20 points (on 8-11 shooting), pulled down three boards, dished out an assist and grabbed one steal.
It's the best scoring half of his young career.
Working in OKC's favour is that the team is 7-1 in the last eight games when Gilgeous-Alexander scores 20 or more.
- Nothing easy at the rim for Toronto
Entering tonight, the Oklahoma City Thunder ranked 15th in the league with 5.0 blocks per game.
They blocked five shots in the first half alone.
Rookie Darius Bazley and reserve big man Nerlens Noel each blocked two shots to lead the way for OKC while Steven Adams was able to block a hook shot from his former teammate, Serge Ibaka.
This rim protection has had a hand in Toronto shooting 18-for-47 (38.3%) in the first half.
- Toronto's backcourt is heating up
After shooting 1-for-5 (20.0%) in the first quarter, Lowry shot 75.0% in the second to bring his team-high total up to 13 points (on 4-for-9 shooting) in 19 minutes of action.
Fred VanVleet also shot 75.0% in the second frame after going 1-for-4 (25.0%) int he first. VanVleet is up to 10 points (on 4-for-8 shooting) including 2-for-3 from beyond the arc.
The Raptors' 3-point shooting (6-for-19) has been a slight advantage over the Thunder, who are now shooting 4-for-18 after missing 11 of their first 12 attempts.
First Quarter: Oklahoma City Thunder 22, Toronto Raptors 20
- Scoring Leaders
Thunder: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander - 6 PTS (3-3 FG), 1 AST
Raptors: Kyle Lowry - 6 PTS (1-5 FG, 3-3 FT), 1 REB
- Offence is coming at a premium
It's to be expected from the Raptors, who are on the second night of a back-to-back and playing their fifth game in eight days. It's a bit more surprising from the Thunder, who are coming off of a day of rest.
The teams shot a combined 14-for-39 from the field to score a total of 42 points. And while OKC was bit better at 44.X4% from the field, they shot 1-for-7 from deep, continuing a trend that began with a poor shooting night in Charlotte on Friday.
- Serge Ibaka will be key in keeping Steven Adams off the boards
Rebounding has been a thorn in the side of the Raptors this season, and head coach Nick Nurse has looked towards Serge Ibaka to help combat the issue.
On Saturday in Boston, Nurse ensured that Ibaka's minutes mirrored those of Enes Kanter. Tonight, he's doing the same thing with Steven Adams, OKC's leading rebounder.
Both Ibaka and Adams saw 7:11 of action in the opening frame. When Adams went to the bench, so did Ibaka. When Adams checked back in, Ibaka made his way back to the scorer's table as well.
Toronto won the rebounding battle 11-10 in the first and Ibaka is outrebounding Adams 3-2 early on. This trend will probably continue throughout the night.