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Five takeaways from the Thunder's win against the Raptors

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The Thunder beat the Raptors 98-97 Sunday night in Toronto. Here are five takeaways from the game: 

Gilgeous-Alexander’s homecoming

Toronto native Shai Gilgeous-Alexander banked in a go-ahead floater with 36 seconds left. He tied his career high with 32 points on 12-of-21 shooting in his homecoming game. 

Gilgeous-Alexander was brilliant offensively. He carried the Thunder when two of its three leading scorers — Danilo Gallinari and Dennis Schroder — were out with ankle injuries. 

Time management

After Toronto guard Fred VanVleet missed what would have been a go-ahead 3-pointer with 16.4 seconds left, the Raptors inexplicably took 10 seconds to foul. And they still had a foul to give before the Thunder reached the bonus. 

Gilgeous-Alexander corralled Terrance Ferguson’s inbound pass with 3.5 seconds left, and again, the Raptors failed to foul as Gilgeous-Alexander dribbled the clock and the game out. 

All hands on deck 

Billy Donovan emptied his bench early. Luguentz Dort, Deonte Burton, Kevin Hervey and Abdel Nader all played in the first quarter. Reserve center Mike Muscala was the only Thunder player who didn’t play. 

Dort was most valuable. The 6-foot-3 and 215-pound guard was assigned to guard Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet, and he did an admirable job even as the Toronto guards combined for 40 points. 

Dort and Nerlens Noel were defensive sparks off the bench. Noel collected four rebounds, three steals and three blocks while scoring 13 points. 

Dort has flashed encouraging signs as a defense-first wing, helping overshadow his poor shooting. Dort shot 1-of-6 Sunday night. He’s 1-of-14 from 3-point range in seven career games. 

Paul’s big buckets

Raptors forward Chris Boucher dunked all over Darius Bazley on an alley-oop that put Toronto on top 85-83 with 9:42 left in the game. 

But before the Raptors crowd could reach the apex of its eruption, Chris Paul drained a 3-pointer over Patrick McCaw to give OKC the lead. 

An even bigger bucket came with 1:01 left. It appeared that Raptors guard Kyle Lowry had forced a tie up, but there was no whistle. Paul came away with the ball and drilled a midrange jumper that put OKC ahead 96-95. 

Paul was close to a triple-double Sunday night with 25 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. 

Winning the road trip

The Thunder went 2-0 on its road trip with wins at Charlotte and Toronto. Those are wins against a 13-21 Hornets squad and a beat up Raptors team missing Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol and Norman Powell, but impressive wins nonetheless. 

The Thunder went 5-2 on the road in December. 

Oklahoma City improved to 17-15 Sunday and now has a three and a half game lead on eighth-place Portland. 

Related Photos
Toronto Raptors' Fred VanVleet (23) is fouled by Oklahoma City Thunder Nerlens Noel (9) as teammate Luguentz Dort defends during first half NBA basketball action in Toronto on Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019. (Hans Deryk/The Canadian Press via AP)

Toronto Raptors' Fred VanVleet (23) is fouled by Oklahoma City Thunder Nerlens Noel (9) as teammate Luguentz Dort defends during first half NBA basketball action in Toronto on Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019. (Hans Deryk/The Canadian Press via AP)

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-573e3eca7e0d7013ce7bb49a057cd7bd.jpg" alt="Photo - Toronto Raptors' Fred VanVleet (23) is fouled by Oklahoma City Thunder Nerlens Noel (9) as teammate Luguentz Dort defends during first half NBA basketball action in Toronto on Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019. (Hans Deryk/The Canadian Press via AP)" title="Toronto Raptors' Fred VanVleet (23) is fouled by Oklahoma City Thunder Nerlens Noel (9) as teammate Luguentz Dort defends during first half NBA basketball action in Toronto on Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019. (Hans Deryk/The Canadian Press via AP)"><figcaption>Toronto Raptors' Fred VanVleet (23) is fouled by Oklahoma City Thunder Nerlens Noel (9) as teammate Luguentz Dort defends during first half NBA basketball action in Toronto on Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019. (Hans Deryk/The Canadian Press via AP)</figcaption></figure>
Joe Mussatto

Joe Mussatto joined The Oklahoman in August 2018 to cover OU football, men’s basketball and softball. He previously covered University of Kentucky football and basketball for SEC Country. Mussatto is from Oklahoma City and lives in Norman. Read more ›

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