Westbrook Back Tonight for Thunder
By Randy Renner
The Thunder are expected to have their All-Star point guard back in the starting lineup tonight when they take on the Raptors in Toronto.
Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said yesterday that Russell Westbrook would play tonight after sitting out last night's game in Cleveland.
The Thunder led by 24 points last night almost halfway through the fourth quarter when the Cavs rode off on a 21-2 run to close the gap to just five points but OKC did enough in the closing seconds to save the game, their 50th win of the season, 102-95.
Today the Thunder are in Canada for their only game north of the border and remember they had gone unbeaten at home until late December when they came up short against the Raptors.
They'll try to return the favor as these first-place teams meet at Air Canada Centre at 6 o'clock Oklahoma time tonight.
Oklahoma City (50-18) won each of its first 13 home games to tie a franchise record before running into trouble in a 104-98 loss to Toronto (38-29). Kyle Lowry racked up 22 points and nine assists as the Raptors outscored the Thunder 29-14 in a terrible fourth quarter, snapping a three-game skid in the series and showing how vulnerable the Thunder would be at times late in games with big leads.
"Losses happen in this league," said Thunder superstar Kevin Durant at the time. He had 24 points but shot 5-for-16 that night. "They beat us fair and square, you know?"
Oklahoma City has won two of three in Toronto, suffering a 111-99 loss in December, 2010, with Durant on the sidelines. Evening this year's series won't be easy since the Raptors are 16-5 on their own court since December 28th. They're currently in third place in the Eastern Conference standings.
Toronto returns home after winning 107-100 at New Orleans on Wednesday. DeMar DeRozan led the way with 31 points and Lowry added 23 as the Raptors outscored the Pelicans 26-15 over the final 12 minutes.
Toronto held a 48-34 rebounding edge, including 22-5 on the offensive glass that resulted in an 18-6 edge in second-chance points against the Pelicans.
The Thunder are looking to sweep their current three-game road trip after last night's win in Cleveland and Monday's in Chicago. Durant had 35 points, 12 boards and five assists in that 97-85 victory against the Bulls and then 35, 11 and six against the Cavaliers last night despite starting the game just 1-for-6. He finished 12-for-21.
"I just don't care if I miss," he said. "I had it in my mind that I was going to start the game off 1-for-10. That's how quickly it can change, man. I thought I might be in for a tough shooting night, but I always stay aggressive."
Durant is averaging a career-high 31.9 points to lead the NBA. He has scored at least 25 in 33 consecutive games, the league's longest streak since Michael Jordan's 40-game run in 1986-87.
"He does it every night and his consistency is remarkable," Brooks said last night in Cleveland.
Durant will get more help tonight with Russ back in the lineup. He's averaging 25.2 points and 8.4 assists over his last five games.
Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas was held out against New Orleans due to a back injury, leaving his status for this game unclear. He was averaging 18.0 points while shooting 69.7 percent over a three-game stretch before getting hurt.
The Thunder are 11-2 on the road against Eastern Conference teams, while Toronto has won six of its last seven against the West.
The Thunder fly back to OKC after the game and will host the Denver Nuggets Monday night.