Thunder Looks to Continue Momentum Tonight vs. Toronto

The Thunder has been, as the team’s own media notes put it, "Feasting on the East." The Thunder is 22-6 versus teams from the Eastern Conference, but one of those six losses was to tonight’s opponent, the Toronto Raptors.

“We didn’t play well in the second half of that game,” Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks said. “I thought we just didn’t play well. We ran out of gas was one reason, but I just didn’t think we played well.”

The Thunder led at halftime of that Dec. 3 game, but was outscored, 59-40, in the second half on its way to a 111-91 defeat. For Toronto, that victory marked the last time it has won two games in a row (the Raptors beat Washington it their previous game).

Guess what? The Raptors again beat the Wizards on Friday night and will be looking for another two-game winning streak tonight, once again versus the Thunder.

“We’re gonna have to compete against that team,” Brooks said. “They have a lot of nice players.”

Two of those players are especially capable of causing headaches -- 7-foot center/forward Andrea Bargnani (21.9 points per game) and 6-7 guard DeMar DeRozan (16.6). The pair combined for 63 points against the Wizards on Friday night.

“He (Bargnani) is one of the best shooting (power forwards) in the league,” Brooks said. “He has a good first step, he scores around the basket, he makes threes, he’s a very good player.

“DeRozan is a young kid that’s really developed a lot from last season to this season. He’s a dynamic wing player who can score around the basket and yet he’s a terrific 18-, 19-foot jump shooter.”

The Raptors are just 19-49 overall and 1-9 versus Western Conference teams on the road. The Thunder, meanwhile, is 11-2 at home versus teams from the East.

“I cannot explain that,” Brooks said of his team’s success against Eastern foes. “I wish I knew. We don’t look at it as we’re playing the East or the West, we’re just playing the game and we have to play it well. We have to execute and do a lot of good things to get the win. It just so happens to be that we have a decent record against the East.”

Better than decent. The Thunder’s .786 winning percentage against Eastern Conference teams is tops among teams from the Western Conference.

“We just want to keep playing good basketball,” Brooks said, “no matter the opposition. We’ve got areas we need to work on and our new guys are still trying to fit in. But Naz (Nazr Mohammed) and Perk (Kendrick Perkins) are doing a great job of blending in.”

In fact, with either Mohammed or Perkins in the starting lineup, the Thunder is 9-1. In the three games Perkins has started, the team is allowing opponents to shoot only 39.0 percent and score just 82.8 points a game.

We’ll see if that trend of outstanding defense continues tonight when the Thunder try to extend the Raptors' road losing streak to a franchise-worst 15 games in a row. The Thunder, meanwhile, is aiming for its season-best seventh consecutive win.

Tip-off is set for 6 PM inside Oklahoma City Arena. You can see all the action on Fox Sports Oklahoma or listen in on the Thunder Radio Network.

NOTES:
  • The Thunder has held its last four opponents to less than 90 points. If that happens again tonight, it will be the first time opponents have scored less than 90 points in five consecutive games since 2002.
  • During this six-game winning streak, the Thunder has won the last five games by double-digits, the first time that has happened in 13 years.
  • In his last four games, Thunder forward Serge Ibaka is averaging 9.0 points, 10.8 rebounds and 5.8 blocks. Ibaka ranks fourth in the NBA averaging 2.8 blocks per game.
  • Friday's win marked the 300th career NBA game for Thunder All-Star Kevin Durant. Only two active NBA players (Shaquille O'Neal and LeBron James) scored more points in their first 300 games than Durant.