Saturday, December 20, 2008

Two 4 One

Due to previous experience, I chose not to watch the end of the last night's game. The contest was going way too well, and honestly I didn't want to see another one get away at the end. Boy, the party I missed in Oklahoma City serves me right after the first home victory in over a month.

And the third win of the year wasn't even the best Thunder news of the night! I know what you are probably thinking. How does a team with very little to hope for get more excited than winning? The long and short answer is this. When you can add to the club without having to subtract anyone, that makes headline news in my book.

More to the hopeful addition in a minute, but first to the Toronto game. Carbert was much more hopeful than I was going into the second game of the homestand, especially with LeBron James on the horizon. The Raptors are a bigger version of the Thunder, with their star player Chris Bosh leading an imposing squad. The visitors were not so lucky during the game, however, as their starting center had to leave with an injury.

Toronto's misfortune allowed OKC to dominate the lane on both sides of the ball, and it opened up scoring opportunities for Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Jeff Green. The Thunder jumped out early, leading by as many as 13 points. The lead was down to single digits in the fourth quarter, and a string of poor shots by the Thunder allowed Toronto to tie the score.

Even with a rough night from 3-point land and the free throw line, OKC used both to seal the 91-83 celebration. Durant broke the tie with a trey and finished the scoring with two free throws. Westbrook also knocked down a pair from the line in the last minute, while also not turning the ball over down the stretch. Coach Brooks had his team ready defensively, and the Raptors couldn't match the intensity in the last four minutes.

Two big reasons for that were the changes in the starting lineup. Desmond Mason replaced Damien Wilkins and Nick Collison again found himself as the starting center. Both contributed solid numbers and even more from a leadership standpoint. The second unit struggled without Collison, but he may be returning to that role with the other big news of the day.

GM Sam Presti learned how to find talent overseas while with San Antonio, and he is on the verge of giving OKC a big piece to the puzzle. Seven-footer Nenad Krstic is set to sign with the Thunder and would provide an upgrade in the middle. The restricted free agent offers scoring and defensive help to an undersized squad and provides Green with breathing room. New Jersey can still match the offer, but all signs point to the Serbian suiting up in the near future.

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