Kyle Lowry left the game with 3:18 to go after picking up his disqualifying sixth foul on a moving screen. Fred VanVleet did not dress for the game because of a bruised hand that was in a soft protective glove over the game so he wasn’t in it to begin with.
This one might have gone off the rails with those two still on the court, but without them, all hell broke loose.
DeMar DeRozan, who was having issues with Corey Brewer all afternoon, got a tech when an obvious foul on a layup went uncalled with 30.9 seconds left. Had he made the basket the game would have been tied.
Instead, the ball was rebounded, went the other way and ended in a Russell Westbrook pull-up jumper to put the Thunder up by four.
Then the technical was issued.
Following a timeout, DeRozan stalked the official who made the call , with any number of his teammates trying to stay between him and the official before DeRozan uttered one of those magic words to earn technical No. 2 and a seat an early end to his afternoon.
Minutes later Serge Ibaka joined DeRozan on the ejection list , we’re assuming for something he said and then coach Dwane Casey made it a trifecta of Raptors to get the heave.
It was not the finest moment by an officiating crew — Marc Davis, Haywoode Workman and Brent Barnacky for those scoring at home — nor was it for the Raptors who lost composure in a game that was well within their grasp.
But frustration is a tough animal to keep caged and once out of the cage DeRozan wasn’t willing to close it.
This was about respect and whether the Raptors set out to make a statement about a perceived lack of respect by officials and by extension the league itself, or whether it just happened naturally, there was a message being sent.
DeRozan, who was already paying for his ejection, will likely be digging into his pocket a little more following his post-game comments that included a re-assertion of what he thought of the non-call — it was deliberate attempt to keep him from a layup — a definite assertion that something needs to be done about the level of officiating and finally an assertion that the Raptors have for a long time been getting the short end of he stick in this regard.
“No, we’re used to going against the odds every step of the way,” DeRozan said. “It’s been like that. We fight through it, but as soon as we say something, we’re the bad guys, we get fined, we get criticized. Every single night when we play we fight against all the odds. We still prevail, but we’ve all got a breaking point and it’s frustrating. You seen it tonight.”
DeRozan has clearly had enough and rather than bite his tongue one more time and avoid punishment for the league he was going to let it all come out.
And now it has.
THE GAMESadly this was a stunningly entertaining game for the first 45 minutes but will only be remembered for the final three minutes and change.
The 132-125 win by the Thunder snapped a franchise-tying 11-game winning streak.
Lost in the frustration and angst felt towards the officiating crew was a 15-point, eight-assist night by Delon Wright who played his second consecutive game of 30 minutes or more and looked right at home.
Wright even spent time on Russell Westbrook and while Westbrook still got his millionth or so triple double, just the experience of defending one of if not the most electrifying players in the game will serve him well in future contests.
CJ Miles had perhaps the dunk of his career going baseline and then putting one-time Raptor Patrick Patterson on a poster with an emphatic dunk.
Then just the sheer toughness of Steven Adams who returned from a driving Ibaka knee to his nether region and still finished the game with 25 points, eight rebounds including five offensive boards and three assists.
Plenty of moments in the game like those, but we’re left talking and writing about technicals and ejections, rather than basketball.
MORE LOVE FOR RAPS’ BENCHThunder coach Billy Donovan isn’t an easy man to impress, but he is thoroughly impressed and has the utmost respect for the way Toronto’s bench mob plays the game.
“We played them in December and they were great then,” Donovan began. “They have great motors. They play with great energy and enthusiasm.”
And then he got to the part of the bench makeup that most impresses him.
“They play with no agenda and I respect that as a coach,” he said. “They play to make the right play. I think when they are out there they are just trying to make the best play whether it’s at the offensive end or defensive end of the floor. They don’t care who scores. They don’t care who shoots. They are just trying to do the right thing and play their role and they do it together.”
It’s not surprising opposing coaches and most certainly their own coaching staff loves this group. They are everything coaches hope to instil in a unit.
“I think they have probably come to realize that they function better when they play together rather than when they play as individuals,” Donovan suggested. “That can be said for any team. But I respect what they bring to their team because when they do come in it brings a different sense of energy and urgency. Not to say the first unit doesn’t do that, but there’s just a difference for them when they come in. They know what they have to do what he team needs.”
You hear this sort of thing from opposing coaches just about every game these days.
QUICK HITSWhat started out as a very good night for Ibaka deteriorated rather quickly from a shooting standpoint. Ibaka hit his first two shots of the night against his old team and then missed the next nine to finish with seven points and a team-worst minus-23 on the night … VanVleet’s bruised hand is not considered serious according to Casey … In the game Toronto’s bench outscored Oklahoma City’s bench 57-23. The OKC starters outscored Toronto’s starting five 109-68.