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Huge Third Quarter Lifts Raptors Over Thunder

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December 3, 2010

TORONTO -- (CP) The Toronto Raptors were a better team in the second half of their game against Oklahoma City. They cut down on turnovers, they hustled and they helped each other on defence.

It paid off, as the Raptors overcame a seven-point halftime deficit behind as Andrea Bargnani's first double-double of the season and defeated the Thunder 111-99 on Friday.

Bargnani had 26 points and 12 rebounds while Leandro Barbosa added 22 off the bench for the Raptors (8-11), who faced an Oklahoma City team missing star forward Kevin Durant for the second straight game because of a sprained left knee.

The Raptors stepped it up after they committed 10 turnovers in the first half.

``We didn't think they were beating us as much as we were beating ourselves,'' Raptors head coach Jay Triano said. ``We had 10 turnovers in the first half and our transition wasn't very good because of that. They turned every one of those turnovers into points.

``We also gave up second chances. Every time we did play good defence they got a second chance....so we were beating ourselves and we just talked about it.''

Durant's absence was a factor, though the Thunder have beaten the tough Boston Celtics without him this season.

``We are a much better team with Kevin Durant in our lineup,'' Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said. ``But guys get hurt, guys have to step up and do what they do well. We've done that before. We've done that three of the four games he's missed.''

Amir Johnson was perfect from the field and the free-throw line for Toronto, chipping in with 14 points and nine rebounds. DeMar DeRozan added 14 points and five boards of his own as the Raptors exploded in the third quarter after trailing by seven at the half.

Russell Westbrook, who also had seven assists, and James Harden each scored 20 points for Oklahoma City (13-7). Jeff Green added 17 points to go with seven assists.

The Raptors, who have now won six of their last eight, outscored Oklahoma City 34-18 in the third quarter behind eight assists from point guard Jose Calderon.

Calderon had 15 assists overall, equalling his season best, and added eight points. He also did a good job of keeping Westbrook under control and forced him into at least two of his five turnovers on the game.

``He's tough,'' Calderon said. ``He's fast, he's strong. The only thing I was trying tonight was to give him different looks. It worked. I was trying to get in front of him all the time.''

Oklahoma led 59-52 at the break but Toronto used a 34-18 edge in the third to take an 86-77 advantage heading to the fourth.

The Raptors took a 64-63 lead before three minutes had elapsed in the second half on a dunk by Sonny Weems. Johnson followed that up with a dunk of his own and Bargnani hit a three-pointer to make it 69-63.

The Raptors led 81-75 with 2:23 to play in the third, with Jose Calderon already equalling his season-best of 15 assists.

Barbosa hit a three-pointer 2 1/2 minutes into the fourth, as Toronto increased its lead to 91-79.

With 4:23 left, Barbosa was fouled while attempting a three-pointer and made two-of-three free throws to put Toronto ahead 99-89.

Bargnani then tipped in a rebound off Barbosa's long-range shot and added a layup to put Toronto ahead 103-89 lead with three minutes to go.

``I thought the third quarter was very, very good basketball,'' Triano said. ``We got up and put the pressure on them and we were able to get stops and get scores to get us right back in it.''

Johnson played well despite picking up five fouls.

``Keep playing and don't worry about the fouls, just play the game,'' Johnson said. ``That's what Jay (Triano) told me, just go out there and play and don't worry about the fouls and the game will come to you.''

The Thunder made it 105-96 on Thabo Sefolosha's driving layup with 1:55 to play, but Bargnani answered with a turnaround jumper.

Oklahoma City was coming off a 123-120 triple-overtime victory Wednesday over the New Jersey Nets.

Westbrook took over that game in the third overtime, scoring all of Oklahoma City's 13 points and had 38 for the game. There were some heavy minutes logged that night, as Westbrook played 48 minutes, Sefolosha played 55, Green played 54 and Harden played 42.

The Raptors, meanwhile, were coming off an easy 127-108 victory over Washington, with DeRozan and Weems playing the most at 28 minutes apiece.

There was little to choose between the teams early as the Raptors took a 28-25 lead after the opening quarter, led by Bargnani's 10 points and three rebounds.

Oklahoma City had an edge in the second, although Linas Kleiza's turn around jumper from 15 feet at the buzzer kept the Raptors within seven points going into halftime.

``I think on the defensive end in the second half (the Raptors) really frustrated us and offensively in the second half we kept playing a little too much one-on-one,'' Brooks said. ``You can't win that way in this league.''

Notes: Raptors forward Peja Stojakovic missed his third successive game with a swollen left knee. ... The Durant-Westbrook tandem is the highest scoring duo in the NBA averaging 51.9 points a game. ... Former Raptor Morris Peterson, now with Oklahoma City, returned to Toronto for the fourth time Friday since leaving the team as a free agent in the summer of 2007. He entered Friday's game to start the second quarter. ... Oklahoma City opened the season as the third youngest team in the NBA with an average age of 24 years and 268 days on opening night. Only Memphis and Minnesota opened the season with younger teams. ... Attendance at Air Canada Centre was 16,774. ... New York visits Toronto on Sunday afternoon.