TORONTO — When this Toronto Raptors team traveled to Oklahoma City in mid-December and walked out of the Ford Center with a lackluster loss to a then 2-24 Thunder team, their performance was considered their low point of the season.
All can be forgotten following Friday’s convincing 112-96 win over the Thunder before 17,127 fans inside the Air Canada Centre who gave the home team a standing ovation as the final seconds ticked off the game clock.
For the first time in the last 20 games of this lottery-bound inaugural Thunder season, Oklahoma City played as if it were going through the motions and counting down the days until summer vacation. The Thunder jumped to a 5-0 lead less than two minutes into the game, but a 17-2 Raptors run sealed the Thunder’s fate, sending it to Boston with a matchup with the defending champion Boston Celtics looming Sunday.
"It was similar to (Tuesday’s) L.A. game where we feel like we never really did make a push,” said Nick Collison. "We didn’t string together enough stops, and this was a disappointing loss for us. We got to be able to stop what we’re doing and change how we’re playing.”
Oklahoma City (20-52) has now lost four of its past five games and six of the past eight.
The Thunder trailed by as many as 25 points Friday and shot just 41.7 percent from the field for the game. But Oklahoma City’s downfall was its defensive deficiencies. The Raptors shot 50.5 percent from the field, including 44.4 percent (8 of 18) from behind the 3-point line.
"We have to help each other out,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks.