Rap­tors hand Thun­der first home loss of sea­son

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS - By AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS in Ok­la­homa City

If the Toronto Rap­tors can play at home the way they have been play­ing on the road, they might just re­main atop the At­lantic Divi­sion for a while.

Kyle Lowry scored 22 points, mak­ing a pair of clinch­ing free throws with 9.8 sec­onds left, and the Rap­tors handed the Ok­la­homa City Thun­der their first home loss with a 104-98 vic­tory on Sun­day night.

The Rap­tors outscored Ok­la­homa City 6-0 in the fi­nal 1:25, all on free throws, and ended the Thun­der’s nine-game win­ning streak. Ok­la­homa City had been 13- 0 at home, the NBA’s long­est un­beaten stretch to open a sea­son since the Cleve­land Cava­liers won their first 23 home games dur­ing the 2007-08 sea­son.

Amir John­son had 17 points and 13 as­sists for Toronto, which won its fourth straight road game, its long­est such streak since March-April 2002. Ok­la­homa City lost for the first time since Dec 4 at Port­land.

Toronto coach Dwane Casey called the win, which moved the Rap­tors past Bos­ton into first place in the At­lantic, his team’s big­gest of the sea­son. Toronto’s road streak be­gan with a vic­tory over the Los An­ge­les Lak­ers on Dec 8 and the Rap­tors added wins at Chicago and Dal­las be­fore beat­ing the Thun­der.

“It’s one of those mys­ter­ies we have, of our fo­cus on the road,” Casey said. “We are a dif­fer­ent team. I see it in our eyes be­fore the game.”

Rus­sell West­brook scored 27 points and Kevin Du­rant added 24 for Ok­la­homa City, which missed its fi­nal four shots.

Vet­eran for­ward John Salmons, who scored 14 points and hit the go- ahead free throws for Toronto, said win­ning on the road “just shows our men­tal tough­ness as a unit.

“Some­times it’s fun to play on the road, be­cause it’s just us against everybody else.”

“It’s the NBA,” Casey said. “It hap­pens. They are one of the best de­fen­sive teams in the league. We knew they were go­ing to come out in the third quar­ter with their best ef­fort, which they did. We sus­tained it and took the punch.”

ALONZO ADAMS / AP

Kyle Lowry drives to the bas­ket around Thun­der for­ward Serge Ibaka dur­ing the game on Sun­day.

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