NBA PICKS Toronto Raptors at Oklahoma City Thunder
this preview is republished from AP News
Preview: Raptors (10-14) at Thunder (22-4)
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Date: December 22, 2013 7:00 PM EDT
Judging by their recent performances against Toronto along with the Raptors’ comparatively meager record, the Oklahoma City Thunder would appear to have a promising chance to extend their season-high win streak and remain perfect at home.
The Raptors, though, have been relatively successful lately and are seeking a fourth consecutive road victory for the first time in 12 seasons Sunday night.
Despite a modest night from NBA scoring leader Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City (22-4) won 113-100 at Southwest Division-leading San Antonio on Saturday. Russell Westbrook led the way with 31 points and Reggie Jackson had 21 off the bench in the Thunder’s ninth consecutive win.
Durant had 17 points – 11.3 below his season average – but the Thunder increased their scoring mark over the last nine games to 110.2.
Oklahoma City, winners in 17 of 18, will try to keep rolling by improving to 14-0 at home. The Thunder are the league’s only unbeaten team on their own court – a likely reason why Westbrook believes his team is the strongest in the NBA.
“We got the best record in the league; I believe we’re the best team in the league regardless of who says this and who says that,” Westbrook said. “You have to go out and play. You can predict anything, but you have to play the game.”
A matchup with Toronto would seem to help as the Thunder have won the past three by an average of 16.0 points. They’re also 4-1 at home against the Raptors (10-14) since relocating to Oklahoma City before the 2008-09 season.
Toronto, though, enters having won four of six – a stretch that coincides with Rudy Gay being sent to Sacramento in a seven-player deal. The Raptors are also on the verge of securing their longest road win streak since a four-gamer March 22-April 5, 2002.
DeMar DeRozan helped deliver a 109-108 win in Dallas on Friday by making the go-ahead jumper while being fouled with 1:11 to go in overtime. DeRozan was one of six players in double figures with 15 points, and Kyle Lowry led the way with 20 as Toronto rallied from a 19-point deficit.
The Raptors lost their first three overtime games this season and fell 104-102 in extra time to Charlotte on Wednesday.
Toronto has helped itself by averaging 104.5 points in the last six games, an increase of 7.2 from its first 18.
“We’re going out there, playing together, playing as a team. We don’t care who scores. We’re just doing our job on both ends,” DeRozan said. “It’s carrying over. Every time we step on the practice court, every time we watch film, we’re trying to find ways to be better in every situation.”
The Raptors haven’t beaten the Thunder since Amir Johnson’s basket in the final seconds gave them a 95-93 victory in Oklahoma City on March 20, 2011.
The Thunder haven’t needed high-scoring efforts from Durant to produce their win streak over Toronto. Durant has averaged 20.0 points in those three games – 6.7 below his career average.
DeRozan is shooting 25.0 percent and averaging 11.7 points in those matchups.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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