If Kevin Durant felt antsy watching his teammates battle without him during a their triple-overtime win on Wednesday, you can bet the NBA's injured leading scorer was sweating under his green sweater as the Toronto Raptors unleashed a 111-99 triumph over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night.
Gutsy performances came from all over the Raptors' roster. Andrea Bargnani had a huge 26-point, 12-rebound effort, Leandro Barbosa scored 22 off of the bench capped off with a steal to seal the win in the final minute, and Jose Calderon going toe to toe against elite point guard Russell Westbrook, who's been on fire in the last several games for the Thunder.
To be fair, the Durant-less Thunder may have been a little wobbly playing only two days after their triple-overtime win over the New Jersey Nets. But 22-year-old Westbrook -- one of the league's top point guards who contributed 38 points Wednesday night -- said that was no excuse.
"We got lazy," Westbrook said after Friday's loss.
He's not worried, he added.
"We win some, everybody's: Whoopee, hey-hey. Now we lose, and everybody's like, Whoa, in panic mode," he said.
"We're gonna be alright. Kevin'll be back soon and everything will be alright."
If the Miami Heat is the team everyone loves to hate, the Thunder may deserve the opposite title. There's a lot to like: blue-collar work ethic, frat-boy camaraderie between players, a soft-spoken head coach who wears pink friendship bracelets braided by his daughters, an unusually large number of players hustling off to chapel before tip-off, as Westbrook did Friday night, in such a hurry he forgot his shoes.
Then there's their biggest star: While Miami's three kings conspired to converge on the shores of South Beach this summer, Durant signed a multi-year contract extension to remain in a not-so-glamorous city with his buddies and build a championship team from the ground up. "It's the best place for me," Durant said in the Air Canada Centre's practice gym on Thursday.
Durant sat out for the second straight game with a twisted knee. Thunder staff thought he might be back as early as Friday night, but head coach Scott Brooks said they'd monitor him and make a decision on Sunday, when Oklahoma City hosts Golden State. "I like having Kevin in the lineup," head coach Scott Brooks said of Durant, before adding with a smile. "That's a mild statement, I know."
Without Durant, Toronto's biggest worry was Westbrook. Before the game, head coach Jay Triano said he might have to vary his defensive matchups against the dynamic, passionate guard who's been averaging about 34 points per game over the last four contests.
Jose Calderon faced the 22-year-old most of the night, and did an good job keeping him to 20 points. Calderon also managed two steals off of Westbrook which he converted, while adding eight points and impressive 15 assists.
Still, Calderon was only the first line of defense: the bigs, notably Bargnani and Johnson, provided some nice help when speedy 22-year-old Westbrook blew by. "There's no way he's stopping with just one guy," Triano said.
Westbrook gave Calderon some props, saying the biggest problem for his team was their own defensive woes. "We just didn't defend the way we're supposed to, and that was the gist of it," he said.
Without injured veteran Reggie Evans, Raptors Amir Johnson, Andrea Bargnani and rookie Ed Davis were expected to pick up the slack on the boards and help contain Thunder forward Jeff Green, who scored a career-high 37 in the Thunder's triple-overtime win against the New Jersey Nets.
They certainly did so in the first quarter, outrebounding the Thunder 14-6. It was a similar story all night, with the Raptors outrebounding the Thunder 43-34.
Johnson had a perfect shooting game, shooting five-for-five from the floor and sinking all four free throws. "I'm not sure he could play much better," Triano said.
Chicken parmesan, not bad blood, came between Brooks and Raptors assistant coach P.J. Carlesimo during this Toronto trip. The two men share a history: in 2007, when Carlesimo was head coach of the Seattle SuperSonics (before they became the Oklahoma City Thunder), Brooks came on as assistant coach. Early in the 2008-09 season, Brooks replaced Carlesimo when the veteran coached was sacked.
Thursday night, they headed out to a fine Italian restaurant for a meal; their first face-to-face meeting since the switch. "He gave me one of his famous hugs," Brooks said.
The Raptors host the New York Knicks on Sunday before setting out on a two-game road trip against the Indiana Pacers (Monday) and the New York Knicks (Wednesday).
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