GANTER: A night to forget for the Raptors in Oklahoma City

Canadian star against visiting Raptors

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OKLAHOMA CITY – Overwhelmed, overwhelmed and overwhelmed.

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The Raptors have had some bad nights in the past, but rarely has it felt so hopeless.

Blame the sudden freeze in what’s usually warmer than Toronto’s Oklahoma City or whatever you want, but that wasn’t anywhere near the standard the Raptors established for themselves in the first 12 games of the season.

The Thunder, who suffered a hard-to-swallow double overtime loss to Milwaukee on Wednesday they appeared to have pinned in the Victory Column, were even hungrier that night and showed it in a 132-113 win over the visiting Raptors.

“We didn’t put up much resistance when we were guarding the ball up front and of course at the end,” said head coach Nick Nurse. “I think they got 70 points in the paint… We weren’t worth shit on defense for most of the night.”

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After a sloppy first quarter when the two teams combined for 15 turnovers, nine of them from the hosts, the Thunder took control in the second quarter with a 41-point breakout.

The Thunder came to the rim with ease and found little to no resistance there. Meeting resistance, they kicked him back to open shooters while Luguentz Dort and Eugene Omoruyi bombed away.

The Thunder shot a robust 65% from the field in that first half, ending with a 70-56 lead through two quarters.

All five Thunder starters achieved double-digit scores at the end of the third quarter.

With another game Saturday night in Indianapolis, Nurse didn’t play any of his regular starters at all in the last frame. The only exception was rookie Christian Koloko, who replaced the injured Pascal Siakam.

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He didn’t have much choice with point guard Fred VanVleet, who was taken out late in the third and did not return due to a non-COVID illness.

“We were just very disconnected and low on energy tonight,” Nurse said.

Nurse admitted after the game that VanVleet might not be the only Raptor to feel the effects of a mistake, but he didn’t want to use that as an excuse. The game set a new mark for points allowed by the Raptors in a game this season, easily breaking the old 119 mark against Philadelphia and coming into one of their worst halves as Miami scored 71 points against them.


Nick Nurse had no plans to start another round of tampering allegations.

But being in Oklahoma City for the first time this season, it was inevitable that the day after Canada’s men’s national team officially qualified for this summer’s World Cup, the head coach would be asked about who is arguably Canada’s current best player is a win over Venezuela on Thursday in Edmonton.

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Shai Gilgeous-Alexander obviously wasn’t in the lineup for this one, but the Oklahoma City Thunder point guard will be a big part of what Canada achieves this summer.

Nurse is clearly a huge Gilgeous-Alexander fan and grew even bigger after seeing his game up close while playing with Canada.

“You always learn more about guys when you kind of have them in your own camp, but he was — I think we knew he was amazing with the ball and he could take it anywhere he wanted to get it, so he was simply scoring unbelievable goals offensively and setting up our shooters correctly,” said Nurse. “However, what really impressed me was that every night we played he literally ruled out, the other team’s top scorer. He really paid attention, really played both ends at a super high level.”

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In the first 10 games of the season, Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging 31.6 points per night and shooting just under 54% from the field.

It’s no surprise Nurse would go defensive first given Gilgeous-Alexander’s reputation for offense is already well established across the league.

“He has such a good first step as in the league. If you set him up to guard, he’ll be with you quickly,” Nurse said. “The speed he has to get past you and then to the edge is elite level. So it happens faster than you’re used to – just athleticism and speed.

And on the other hand, he’s grown in his game,” Nurse said. “Maybe in his first few years it was a sprint to the edge, put it in every time and that was his move. Now he’s also got that 6-8-10-12 really well under control when he needs to get to two feet and stop and then he has a little turn on the block too.”

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In short, Gilgeous-Alexander is a problem at both ends of the pitch.


The Raptors, who have already lost Pascal Siakam, are now facing a possible long-term absence from Precious Achiuwa, who tore multiple ligaments in his ankle in Wednesday’s win against Houston was Nurse’s first or second call from his bench most nights.

Nurse said he will be looking even more to Chris Boucher along with veterans Otto Porter Jr. and Thad Young to carry this second unit.

Boucher, who has been so dominant in those minutes into the first seven or eight games of the season, has had a couple of bad nights lately but Nurse is hoping the changes he’s being forced to make with this second unit rotation will have a positive effect will have on Boucher.

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“I’m hoping a little change in this rotation here will get Chris back on track,” Nurse said. “He gave us his A-Plus game every night. Again, we know you’re not going to get that every night with every guy, but I’m hoping tonight with an overtime – he’s going to have to play a long rotation tonight and I hope that helps him.”

Boucher was primarily associated with Achiuwa early in the schedule, and while Boucher admits he enjoys playing with Achiuwa and will miss him while he’s gone, he was also quick to point out that he found success before Achiuwa was on the scene appeared and is able to do so again.

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