Toronto’s Shai Shines

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Late Champagnie Tip Waved Off as Raptors Fall Flat Against the Thunder

It was quite the homecoming for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

For the Hamilton-native, playing in front of friends and family at the Scotiabank Arena has always been a dream and since entering the NBA, that dream has very much become a reality.

“It’s an exciting feeling. Knowing all my family and friends are in the stands. It’s a court I grew up watching. It’s always fun. [The atmosphere] was electric,” he said. “Every time I’ve been here it has been. It’s very fun to play here. It’s an exciting feeling. Knowing all my family and friends are in the stands. It’s a court I grew up watching. It’s always fun. [The atmosphere] was electric. Every time I’ve been here it has been. It’s very fun to play here.”

What must be even more fun is to come into the Scotiabank Arena and beat the team you grew up rooting.

On Wednesday night, the 23-year old guard dropped a game high 26-points to help lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 110-109 victory over the Toronto Raptors. Canadian forward Lu Dort added 22 points and six rebounds in the win as the Thunder escaped, literally by the thinnest of margins as a tip-in by Justin Champagnie of the Raptors was waved off as the final buzzer rang.

“I know for a fact we’re getting better every day,” said Gilgeous-Alexander. “Now, what the future holds? I can’t control it. That’s what I try to do, just stay in the moment. Focus on day to day, try to get better every day, wherever that takes us, that takes us. But we’re headed in the right direction for sure.”

Meanwhile, the Raptors were dealt yet another tough loss on a night where they simply struggled to find any sort of spark, especially in a putrid 12-point third quarter against a struggling Thunder team that ranked in the bottom third in both offense and defense.

“I don’t have a great answer for you,” Fred VanVleet said following the loss. “It seems to be our pattern: play well, play really bad, get yelled at, play really hard, do it all over again. So, it’s disappointing for sure but it is what it is.”

Despite a poor shooting effort, VanVleet finished the night with 19 points, eight rebounds, and nine assists. Pascal Siakam had himself a big 23 point, 11 rebound night, while Gary Trent Jr. and Scottie Barnes finished with 24 and 18 points respectively. Yet, the Raptors just couldn’t get it done, seeing their mini two-game win streak come to an end.

“I mean, we’re professionals, it shouldn’t take that. You gotta show up to work and do your job every day. It’s not about box score stats, it’s not about scoring, it’s not about awards, it’s not about individual accolades or individual plays,” VanVleet added. “It’s about winning ball games and doing things the right and we just can’t seem to sustain that long enough to win against teams we must think we’re better than. It doesn’t work like that in the NBA because they were the better team tonight.”

Falling to 11-14, the Raptors will look to get right back into the win column on Friday evening as they take on the New York Knicks.

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