The Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Toronto Raptors in the Air Canada Centre Sunday 104-92 in a one-sided battle that featured plenty of offensive fireworks for the Thunder.
Oklahoma City started off the team’s long road trip with a big win, but it was the continued emergence of star power forward Serge Ibaka (19 points and eight rebounds) that has helped fill the void left by the departure of shooting guard James Harden.
Add in the stellar play of shooting guard Kevin Martin off the bench (16 points) and star point guard Russell Westbrook (23 points and seven assists), and the Thunder are still one of the most dangerous teams in the league.
Not to mention, the team still has perennial MVP candidate Kevin Durant, who has transformed his game from a scoring-first forward to a versatile two-way star; the OKC star is the definition of unselfish.
While there isn’t much to build on coming out of this tough loss for the Raptors, power forward Amir Johnson played well at both ends of the court, and bench star Alan Anderson continued his torrid scoring pace by putting up 27 points in just 33 minutes.
Toronto is far from out of postseason contention in the Eastern Conference, but they must start beating playoff-caliber teams with more regularity.
Player of the Game: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
After backcourt leader Harden was traded, Durant took on more of a leadership role and decided to become more than just the league’s leading scorer. With the ability to rebound, pass the ball and defend, Durant has blossomed into a complete NBA star.
With 22 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and a point differential of plus-28, there is no denying just how big of an impact Durant makes for the Thunder on a game-to-game basis.
Up Next for Oklahoma City Thunder
While there were many experts that openly questioned the trade of Harden, the Oklahoma City Thunder are proving that they knew exactly what they were doing making that deal.
The Thunder have been consistently at the top of the Western Conference standings for most of the season and continue to look like one of the biggest threats to contend for an NBA championship in 2013.
Oklahoma City has played most of its games at home so far this season, but the team’s mettle will be tested as it prepares for a road trip that will see it play 11 of its next 14 games on the road.
Up Next for Toronto Raptors
Since the elbow injury to starting center Andrea Bargnani, the Toronto Raptors have been forced to change up the schemes the team uses in the offensive and defensive zones.
With eight wins in their last 11 games, the Raptors have found a solid chemistry on defense and an exciting pace in the offensive end of the court, despite the loss Sunday.
If Toronto can keep playing smart basketball through the rest of the season, there is no reason they couldn’t sneak into the playoffs as the No. 7 or No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference.
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