Raptors win in OT after blowing lead

The Associated Press
Murray Evans

OKLAHOMA CITY–Forced to play overtime after blowing a 20-point second-half lead, the Toronto Raptors found their groove again in the extra period.
Pascal Siakam had 33 points and 13 rebounds, and Fred VanVleet added 23 points and six assists, as the Raptors won the first of two games in three days against Oklahoma City, outscoring the Thunder 13-4 in OT to pull out a 123-114 victory last night.
Atlantic Division-leading Toronto snapped a four-game losing streak against Oklahoma City despite the absence of starting guard Kyle Lowry, who sat out with a sprained right ankle sustained Monday in a win over the N.Y. Knicks.
The Raptors did so with balanced scoring, good ball movement (four players had six assists), and strong shooting, making 51.7 percent overall and 38.9 percent from three-point range (14-of-36).
Kawhi Leonard added 22 points and 10 rebounds while Danny Green scored 17.
“A lot of times when you blow a lead and go to overtime, the momentum goes to the team that gets it to overtime and you come out flat,” Toronto coach Nick Nurse noted.
“But we didn’t,” he remarked. “We came out and really played, really played, especially at the defensive end, which is a great sign.”
In his return from a one-game suspension for accumulating too many technical fouls, Russell Westbrook had 42 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists for Oklahoma City, which now has lost four-straight games and 10-of-14.
The Thunder entered sixth in the Western Conference but just a half-game out of eighth place.
“I knew it was close,” Oklahoma City’s Paul George said. “If we win [we know] where we’re at and if we lose we know where we’re at going into the game.
“We control our destiny.”
Toronto led 78-58 in the third quarter but the Thunder steadily chipped away and pulled to 110-108 on a three-pointer by George with 39.9 seconds left in regulation.
He fouled out with 19.9 seconds to go while scrambling for a rebound after a missed shot by VanVleet, but another miss by VanVleet led to a driving lay-up by Westbrook with 4.8 seconds left to tie it.
In overtime, the Thunder missed their first seven shots, allowing Toronto to pull away again.
A driving lay-up by VanVleet with 58.4 seconds left, followed by a three-point play by Leonard with 35.5 seconds to go, gave the Raptors a 119-110 lead.
“As we get closer to the end [of the season] here, where it’s less about foundational principles and more about getting locked in and playoff-type defensive packages and coverages, tonight you saw that a little bit,” VanVleet said.
“Things are getting a little more detailed and guys are revving it up a little bit more.”
George scored 19 points for Oklahoma City, which made 13-of-43 three-point attempts (30.2 percent) and just 15-of-29 free throws (51.7 percent).
“We’ve just got to get off to a better start,” George stressed. “That’s it. A better start.
“We close out well,” he noted. “We just put ourselves behind a lot of times. Just a better start.”
The Raptors next host the Thunder on Friday night.

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