THE CANADIAN PRESS
TORONTO — Toronto Raptors head coach Jay Triano continued to berate the officials after they handed him a technical foul late in the first half, barking at them through the jeering home crowd: "Oh, make me deserve it."
In the end, his Raptors got exactly what they deserved for their efforts Friday night with a 115-89 defeat to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Toronto was sluggish from the beginning of the night, leading not only to Triano’s obvious frustration, but also to the team’s 10th loss in 12 games, an ill-timed slump in the middle of a fight for an NBA playoff berth.
Kevin Durant led the way with 31 points for Oklahoma City (42-25), which has won six of its last seven games, on top of sweeping the season series with Toronto. Jeff Green added 23 points, while Russell Westbrook chipped in 11 points and 10 assists.
Chris Bosh had 22 points and 10 rebounds for the Raptors, while Andrea Bargnani added 15 and Marco Belinelli 12.
Fans at the Air Canada Centre stood and booed as the clock expired in the fourth quarter.
Toronto players and coaches slinked from the court at halftime under a hail of jeers from what had become an increasingly agitated home crowd. Not only were the Raptors behind by more than 25 points, they were also being out-rebounded, out-worked and out-played in every meaningful facet of the game.
Oklahoma City seemed to hit at the heart of Toronto’s greatest weaknesses. The Thunder held a 14-point lead after the first quarter thanks in no small part to a dozen points gained from 13 free-throw attempts.
Raptors guard Jose Calderon committed a trio of turnovers in the first quarter. Maligned forward Hedo Turkoglu missed his first two field goal attempts and was recalled to the bench for a long stretch of the second quarter.
Toronto fans erupted in revolt at the end of the half, after Thunder centre Nenad Krstic capped a fast break with an easy dunk. It gave the visitors a 71-44 lead, led by 23 points from Durant, who had not exactly been allowed to slip into the city unnoticed before the game.
The 21-year-old entered the game ranked second in the league with an average of 29.7 points per game. He had nearly matched that average by halftime (23) in Toronto.
"He’s turned into a bona fide superstar in this league," Triano told reporters earlier Friday afternoon. "He finds ways to score. He’s active. You take one thing away from him, he goes to another."
It was a dreadful display for the Raptors, but remarkably not the worst of the season. Toronto conceded 75 in the first half of a game against Atlanta on Dec. 2.
Oklahoma City’s lead continued to grow into the second half, opening a 34-point edge on the end of a three-point jumper from Green.
The Raptors had already lost once to the Thunder this year, a 119-99 loss on Feb. 28 that began to look more and more competitive as the game wore on Friday in Toronto. Durant had been held to a mere 29 points in the first game, but moved at will in the rematch.
Toronto holds the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference standings with a 33-34 record and 15 games left on its regular season schedule. The Raptors needed to show something at home Friday night, and they knew it.
"We really don’t have much time left," Bargnani had said before the game. "We’ve got less than one month to play. So it’s either, we’re going to be in, or we’re going to be out. We don’t have time to think about it."
Notes : Donnie Wahlberg, a founding member of the New Kids on the Block, was seated courtside for the first half, wearing a baseball cap and what appeared to be a very needy mobile device. He smirked and shook his head when he was introduced to the crowd with one of his old hits, "The Right Stuff" playing over the speakers. … Toronto hits the road for its next two games, with a stop in New Jersey on Saturday and Minnesota on Monday.