Raptors home Thunder first home loss of season

Michael Kinney, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

OKLAHOMA CITY -- With the Oklahoma City Thunder off to a 13-0 start at home this season, including victories over the Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors and Indiana Pacers, the locals were sure the streak would last well into 2014.
Instead, a surprising foe halted the Thunder's home dominance for one night, as the Toronto Raptors earned a 104-98 victory Sunday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
"It's a huge win," Toronto guard Kyle Lowry said. "These guys at their place have really kind of been unbeatable. For us to come in here and get a win is a huge confidence boost."
The defeat, the Thunder's first at home this season, also ended Oklahoma City's nine-game overall winning streak.
"We had a great little streak going at home," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "Now we just have to go out on the road and get a win. We've done a great job of protecting our home court. Give (the Raptors) credit, they played a good basketball game. They hung around and won it at the end."
With 4:34 left in the fourth quarter, Raptors guard John Salmons tied the game with a jumper. Toronto center Jonas Valanciunas and Lowry scored five straight, and the Raptors (11-14) took a 98-93 lead with 2:20 remaining.
Oklahoma City (22-5) responded with two free throws from forward Perry Jones III and a 3-pointer from forward Kevin Durant at the top of the key to tie the game. Guard DeMar DeRozan answered with a jumper to give the Raptors a two-point lead.
The Thunder had two chances to tie the game or take the lead, but their shots were off the mark.
After a mad scramble for a loose ball, Toronto got possession with 25 seconds left. Raptors forward Amir Johnson was fouled and knocked in two free throws to push the lead to four with 14.5 seconds left.
Durant fired up a shot that was off the mark, and Lowry put the contest away at the foul line.
"I am seeing the mental toughness growing," said Raptors coach Dwane Casey, whose team is 5-2 since trading forward Rudy Gay. "I talked to the guys about how tough you have to be to take punches in this league, to take punches in this great environment here. This is one of the toughest places to play in the league.
"It's one of those things where our guys fought through it. We could have folded and packed it in. But we stayed with it, stuck together most of all and didn't fall apart."
Lowry led the Raptors with 22 points to go along with nine assists, seven rebounds and four steals. Johnson and DeRozan each scored 17 points, and Johnson grabbed a game-high 13 boards.
Guard Russell Westbrook paced the Thunder with 27 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Durant scored 24 points on 5-for-16 shooting.
Lowry knew his matchup with Westbrook at the point guard spot would be pivotal if the Raptors were going to pull off the upset.
"My mindset is just to contend," Lowry said, "make him work for everything 'cause he's going to get his. He's going to be aggressive. He's an All-NBA player. He's a guy you have to pay attention to at all times."
Toronto looked as if it caught Oklahoma City on the right night when it stormed out to a 68-57 lead at halftime. The Thunder starters were dragging around the court as the Raptors outhustled them to rebounds and loose balls.
At that point, Durant and Westbrook found an extra gear as Oklahoma City outscored Toronto 27-7 to close out the third quarter with an 84-75 lead.
The Raptors outscored the Thunder 29-14 in the fourth.
"Losses happen in this league," Durant said. "They beat us fair and square. We just have to take this loss on the chin and move on."
NOTES: Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey found himself siding with Oklahoma City C Kendrick Perkins when it comes to opposing players coming into the locker room. "You have to have some sanctity," Casey said. "I have a lot of friends in the NBA, but I don't like buddy, buddy before the game. The guy is trying to take your livelihood. We don't have a rule in our locker room, but I agree with Perk." ... Thunder coach Scott Brooks said his team does not have a defined sixth man. On any given night, Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb, Nick Collison or Steven Adams could be the first player off the bench. "Reggie has done a great job," Brooks said. "But we feel that Jeremy has, Steve and Nick. Whoever goes into that lineup, whether first or last guy off the bench, I have confidence in them."

What to Read Next