Canadians Gilgeous-Alexander, Dort lead Thunder to thrilling win over Raptors


Published December 8, 2021 at 9:58 pm

TORONTO — Canadians Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Luguentz Dort made the most of their trip home on Wednesday.

Gilgeous-Alexander, from Hamilton, had 16 of his 26 points in a pivotal third quarter, while Montreal’s Dort scored 22 points and was a brick wall on defence in the Oklahoma City Thunder’s thrilling 110-109 victory over the Toronto Raptors.

Gary Trent Jr. scored 24 points in a game that the Raptors thought they’d won on a Justin Champagnie tip-in at the buzzer. The Raptors swarmed the seldom-used Champagnie before the shot was disallowed — video review showed the ball was still in his hands when the buzzer sounded.

Fred VanVleet had 19 points and nine assists for the Raptors (11-14), while Scottie Barnes had 18 points and eight rebounds. Chris Boucher finished with 11 points. 

The Raptors led by 13 points in the second quarter, but their offence came to a standstill in the third. The Raptors could only muster 12 points in the quarter, while the Thunder ended the frame with a 25-3 run for an 87-76 lead to start the fourth. 

When Derrick Favors scored off a Raptors turnover early in the fourth quarter to put the visitors up by 13 points, a smattering of boos could be heard from the capacity crowd of 19,800 at Scotiabank Arena. 

The Raptors clawed back to within six points on consecutive three-pointers from VanVleet. Then Siakam, Trent and VanVleet connected on back-to-back-to-back threes to tie the game with 59 seconds to play to tie the game, bringing the fans out of their seats.

Champagnie muscled to the hoop for a basket with 18 seconds to play for a two-point lead, thumping his chest in celebration. But Mike Muscala hit a three with 8.9 seconds to play, which would turn out to be the game-clincher when Champagnie’s tip-in was disallowed.

Injuries continue to plague the Raptors. OG Anunoby missed his 10th game with a hip injury, while Khem Birch missed his sixth straight game and 10th this season with knee swelling. Coach Nick Nurse said the two will be sidelined for “the forseeable future.” 

And Precious Achiuwa (shoulder tendinitis) sat out Thursday’s game, diminishing Toronto’s already depleted front court.

“Hopefully it’s short-term,” Nurse said of Achiuwa.

Siakam was a perfect 4-for-4 for nine points in the first quarter. The Raptors shot 68.2 per cent in the frame and VanVleet hit a three-pointer with 4.1 seconds left on the clock for a 36-26 lead to start the second.

Trent poured in 12 points in a second quarter that saw the Raptors go up by 13 on a three-pointer by Yuta Watanabe with 1:03 to play. The Raptors went into the halftime break leading 64-54.

Gilgeous-Alexander and Dort combined for 58 points in the Thunder’s 114-103 win at Detroit on Monday that halted Oklahoma City’s eight-game losing skid. That win came one game after Oklahoma City was throttled 152-79 by Memphis, the largest margin of victory in NBA history. 

Thunder coach Mark Daigneault was hoping for big nights from his two Canadian players. 

“They have a lot of pride in where they’re from,” Daigneault said. “I’m just happy for them that they get to come home. . . I think it’s pretty cool any time a player can play close to home, but being from this country I think it has that added layer.”

The Raptors host another Canadian in RJ Barrett and the New York Knicks on Friday. They close out the season-long seven-game homestand Monday against Sacramento.  

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 8, 2021.

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press

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