Oklahoma City Blows Out Raptors 119-99 to Continue Playoff Pursuit

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Oklahoma City Blows Out Raptors 119-99 to Continue Playoff Pursuit OKLAHOMA CITY — Despite being one
of the youngest teams in the NBA, the Oklahoma City Thunder haven’t let a
two-game hiccup disrupt their pursuit of the playoffs.

Kevin Durant scored 29 points, Nenad
Krstic
had a rare 3-pointer and added 16 points and Oklahoma City rolled
to its second straight blowout, beating the Toronto Raptors 119-99 on
Sunday night.

After collapsing late in consecutive
losses to Phoenix and San Antonio — the two teams that had been
immediately behind them in the standings — the Thunder have responded
with consecutive wins in which they were never really threatened in the
second half.

“That’s the most impressive thing, I
think, about our team is our consistency and not having a lot of
slippage where we have a bad stretch,” said forward Nick Collison, the
only player left from the franchise’s last trip to the playoffs. “I
think two or three losses is the most we’ve had in a row. We’ve always
been able to come back, correct it and improve our level of play.

“I think for a young team that’s
impressive and hopefully we keep it going.”

The Raptors have lost three in a row
without All-Star Chris Bosh, who didn’t even make the trip with a
sprained left ankle.

“Without Chris, we just needed to step
up,” said Toronto’s Hedo Turkoglu, who was held to seven points. “When
he comes back, we’re going to be much stronger. His presence will be
great throughout the game on both ends of the court. We hope that he
comes back soon and puts this team in a better situation.”

Jeff Green had 20 points and matched
his career high with four steals, Russell Westbrook added 14 points, 10
assists and four steals, and rookie Serge Ibaka had 13 points and 10
rebounds for the Thunder. Oklahoma City took control with an early 12-0
run and led by at least nine throughout the second half.

“We respect every team we play and
every player we go up against but we know we have that mindset of trying
to be guys that go out and get after it and have that competitive
spirit for 48 minutes straight,” Durant said. “That’s our brand of
basketball here in Oklahoma City, and that’s how it’s going to be for a
long time.”

Andrea Bargnani and Sonny Weems each
had 14 points to lead Toronto, which has lost three or more consecutive
games for only the third time this season.

Oklahoma City hasn’t had a losing
streak longer than three games after finishing 23-59 last season and has
now won 11 of 13.

“It’s not going to just be going up
and winning all of these games,” coach Scott Brooks said. “We’re going
to have some stretches where we’re really going to have to buckle down
and we’re going to get tested. We’ve got some tough games coming up
soon.”

Westbrook had the first seven points —
five of them from the free-throw line — in an 11-2 run that put the
game away for the Thunder late in the third quarter. James Harden‘s
layup completed the spurt and made it 87-66.

Durant’s two-handed jam off an
alley-oop from Green made it 107-81 midway through the fourth quarter
and Brooks called timeout on Oklahoma City’s next possession to pull his
starters.

The Thunder — with the league’s
stingiest field goal percentage defense — improved to 25-3 when scoring
100 or more this season. Oklahoma City shot 52 percent, held Toronto to
44 percent and scored 29 points off of the Raptors’ 18 turnovers.

“You’re not going to get many easy
buckets against this team, and they’re going to try to make it a
transition game and get up and down,” Raptors coach Jay Triano said.
“They did that, and we were not equal to the match tonight.”

Toronto had won its first two games
after Bosh sprained his left ankle, albeit against lowly New Jersey and a
Washington team without Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn
Jamison
. But the Raptors couldn’t match their level of play from two
nights earlier, when they pushed Cleveland to overtime in a loss.

Notes
Five of the Thunder’s last 13
opponents, and seven of their last 21, have played without an injured
All-Star. Oklahoma City has had its starting lineup in tact for all but
two games this season, when Krstic was out with an injury to his left
Achilles tendon and then a sprained left ankle. … Oklahoma City didn’t
commit its first turnover until Jarrett Jack stole the ball from Krstic
with 4:36 left before halftime. The Raptors are last in the NBA in
steals. … The only other 3-pointer of Krstic’s six-year career came on
April 18, 2006, against Philadelphia. He tried another in the third
quarter and is 2-for-12 in his career.

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