It was about 40 minutes after the game had ended on Thursday night before Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey was able to bring himself to speak with members of the media about the embarrassment that had just transpired on the basketball court.
And while the coach spoke in even terms you could not help but sense the rage that was still roiling inside his mind.
“That exhibition of basketball was unacceptable,” Casey started, letting his team have it with both barrels after a thoroughly desultory 123-102 dismantling by the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Air Canada Centre.
“I want to apologize to our fans, to everybody, the way we played tonight,” Casey continued. “And that’s just the effort, the competitive spirit wasn’t there.
“[The Thunder] came out and played like it was a championship game and we played like it was the middle of the season game. And again, it’s not acceptable, bottom line.”
It was as bad a game as the Raptors have played all season and their lack of drive from the opening tip was shocking for a team that believes it has the talent for another deep run in the fast-approaching National Basketball Association playoffs.
Casey knows that unless his players start picking up their level of play and intensity, an early exit from the post season is the more likely scenario.
“Our transition defence was non-existent,” Casey bemoaned. “We talked about it, we worked on it. We worked harder in practice than we did in the game and that’s what’s disappointing.
“And somehow, someway, myself and the staff we’ve got to find a competitive edge before the playoffs. It starts now. And that’s what’s disappointing. I thought we had turned the corner a little bit with Dallas but we didn’t.”
On a night where OKC’s Russell Westbrook recorded his 34th triple-double of the season – and didn’t even play the fourth quarter – the Thunder’s dominance was overwhelming as much as it was an eye opener for the Raptors.
The Thunder led wire to wire and their lead extended to as many as 32 points in the fourth quarter. They hit on 53.4 per cent of their shots, including 56 per cent (14 of 25) from beyond the three-point arch.
OKC out-rebounded Toronto 47-32, outscored Toronto 17-1 in second-chance points and 14-4 on the fast break.
Westbrook led the onslaught with 24 points, 10 rebounds and 16 assists – his assist total one more than what the entire Raptors team could manage.
Casey said he had no clue why his team would come out with such a lethargic effort and emphasized that changes were in the offing.
“That’s what we’re going to find out,” Casey said. “We’re going to find seven or eight guys that’s going to come out and compete. That’s what we’ve got to have. There’s no excuse, there’s none.
“That’s a good team. Oklahoma City’s a good team. But we talked about before the game how we had to come out with a competitive spirit, a toughness, that we didn’t have. There’s no excuse for it.”
As for Westbrook, Casey said he had a field day tearing apart the porous Toronto defence.
“He was a one man wrecking crew,” Casey said. “He caused a lot of chain reactions, it starts with him. We had multiple breakdowns as far as getting him under control.
“He’s a great player but still ... [there were] things we didn’t do that could kind of slow that down; we didn’t do it.”
DeMar DeRozan, who scored 22 points in the Toronto loss, said the players spoke to one another in the locker room for a spell after the game had concluded. He said everybody spoke up.
“We got to come out and play, and play harder,” DeRozan said. “[The Thunder] played with a sense of urgency, everything you can think of, from the [start]. We didn’t. And the score told that.”
DeRozan said there was no excuse for the way the team played and that hopefully they will be able to turn things around on Friday night in Detroit against the Pistons.Report Typo/Error
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