Thunder rumbles over Raptors

The Canadian Press
Neil Davidson

TORONTO—Even when he misses, Russell Westbrook is worth watching.
The Oklahoma City star guard clanged a free throw off the rim, then gathered in the rebound with one hand before guiding the ball into the hoop.
Chalk up another rebound and two more points en route to Westbrook’s 16th triple-double of the season in an emphatic 119-100 victory over the Toronto Raptors last night.
“That was unreal,” said Thunder teammate Kevin Durant, who clutched his head in disbelief at the play.
“You’ve got to time that right and you’ve just got to be as athletic as hell,” he noted.
“I don’t know if there’s anybody in the league that can do that.
“You’ve got to make the free throw but I’ll take the two points and the acrobatic play instead,” Durant added.
“He’s a freak of nature, man.”
Westbrook collected 26 points, 12 assists, and 11 rebounds.
His triple-double tally is the most since Magic Johnson’s 17 in 1988-89. And it was his seventh triple-double in March—the most in a single month since Michael Jordan back in April, 1989.
Good company to be in.
“I like to win the game and make sure my teammates feel good about themselves,” said Westbrook.
Durant showed off his own skills with 34 points—along with eight assists and eight rebounds—as he scored 20-plus points for the 59th-straight game.
Oklahoma City (52-22) extended its winning streak to eight games—its best stretch since a 10-game run from Jan. 16-31, 2014.
It has outscored the opposition by an average of 17.1 points during the current streak.
Toronto (49-24), the only NBA franchise without a 50-win season on the books, was hoping to become the fifth team this season to hit 50 victories—joining Golden State, San Antonio, Cleveland, and Oklahoma City.
The Raptors, who now have lost three of the last four, will look to hit that plateau tomorrow night when Atlanta visits.
DeMar DeRozan led Toronto with 19 points.
Rookie Norman Powell had 18 and Kyle Lowry 14 for the Raptors, who led just once in the game.
Lowry had his right elbow drained after the game in a bid to relieve inflammation.
“I’m not going to make any excuses but it’s definitely something I don’t want to play with and I don’t like playing with,” said Lowry.
“But it is what it is.”
Trailing 97-74 after three quarters, Toronto cut the lead to 14 in the fourth.
But the night belonged to Oklahoma City.
The Thunder outscored Toronto 21-14 in second-chance points and 27-11 on the fast break.
Asked beforehand if the game was a litmus test, Raptors’ coach Dwane Casey replied: “Well, I don’t know if it’s a litmus test. It’s a hell of a test, I know that, against OKC?”
Toronto failed the exam when it came to matching the Thunder’s physicality, according to Casey.
“Tonight is a learning experience,” he said.
“It tells us how hard we have to compete with force on both ends of the floor, for longer periods of time.”
Powell, meanwhile, was handed the thankless job of guarding Westbrook before an Air Canada Centre crowd of 19,800—the Raptors’ 76th-straight sellout.
“That’s an elite team and I thought he competed as well as you could ask a rookie to do against one of the top point guards in the league,” noted Casey.
Asked about Westbrook following the morning shootaround, Casey called him a “ferocious competitor.”
“He’s coming at you 100 miles an hour,” Casey noted. “His speed, quickness, athleticism is off the charts.
“He’s been that way since he came out of college. . . .
“He plays with a huge chip on his shoulder. That helps him be a great competitor,” Casey added.
“You’ve got to meet his force with your force and with multiple guys,” he stressed.
“One guy is not going to stop him from getting where he wants to go.”
Elsewhere in the NBA, Minnesota topped Phoenix 121-116, Miami beat Brooklyn 110-99, Atlanta edged Chicago 102-100, New Orleans downed New York 99-91, and San Antonio bounced Memphis 101-87.
Dallas beat Denver 97-88, Utah bombed the L.A. Lakers 123-75, Portland downed Sacramento 105-93, and the L.A. Clippers dumped Boston 114-90.