Thunder 119, Raptors 99
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP)
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.
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.''
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.