Still trying to improve their standing in the Western Conference, the Oklahoma City Thunder are taking advantage of matchups against the East.
The Northwest Division-leading Thunder look to extend their longest winning streak in more than a year to seven Sunday night when they face the Toronto Raptors, who are trying to snap a franchise-record 14-game road skid.
Oklahoma City (45-23), trailing third-place Dallas by 2 1/2 games in the West and the second-place Lakers by 3 1/2, improved to 22-6 versus the East on Friday when it defeated Charlotte 99-82 to open a season-high six-game homestand.
The Thunder have won nine of 10 in March with an 8-0 record versus East teams, including all six games during their current win streak.
“I wish I knew,” coach Scott Brooks said. “We don’t look at it as ‘We’re playing the East or the West.’ We look at it as, we’re playing a game that we’re going to have to play well. We have to execute and do a lot of good things to get the win. It just so happens we have a decent record against the East.”
Hosting the lowly Raptors, the Thunder have a good chance to extend their longest win streak since a nine-game run from Jan. 29-Feb. 21, 2010.
Toronto (19-49) is opening a five-game trip - all against West foes - without a road victory since defeating NBA-worst Cleveland on Jan. 5.
The Raptors, though, are looking to build on Friday’s 116-107 victory over Washington.
Toronto last won two straight Dec. 1-3, when it defeated the Wizards and the Thunder.
Kevin Durant(notes) was sidelined for that 111-99 loss in Toronto with a sprained left knee, but he should be available Sunday despite leaving Friday’s game due to a bruised left shoulder with 1:40 left. Durant, averaging a league-best 28.0 points, said he could have returned but went to the locker room as a precautionary measure.
In the teams’ last matchup in Oklahoma City, Durant scored 29 points as the Thunder routed the Raptors 119-99 on Feb. 28, 2010.
Bargnani, averaging a team-best 21.9 points, had 33 on Friday, setting career highs for free throws (15) and attempts (18).
DeRozan added 30 - the third time in seven games he’s reached that amount.
The pair combined for 40 points and 17 boards in the Dec. 3 win.
Toronto, though, could struggle to score down low in this matchup against Serge Ibaka(notes) and center Kendrick Perkins(notes). Ibaka is averaging 9.0 points, 10.8 rebounds and 5.8 blocks over the last four, while Perkins is averaging 7.7 boards in three games since missing nine with a sprained left knee.
The Raptors last swept the season series against the Thunder franchise in 2000-01, when they posted two wins over the Seattle SuperSonics.