Rising stars lead Thunder to win No. 3Dec 20, 2008 - 5:11 AM OKLAHOMA CITY (Ticker) -- With their third win of the season hanging by a thread Friday night, the youngsters of the Oklahoma City Thunder wouldn't let it slip away.
Nursing a two-point edge late in the fourth quarter, the Thunder staged an 8-0 run to put the game away, snapping an eight-game skid with a 91-83 victory over the struggling Toronto Raptors.
"Our guys deserved a win, our fans deserved a win, and this is a big lift for us emotionally," Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said.
Chris Bosh's free throw with 1:51 on the clock cut the Raptors' deficit to 83-81, but rookie point guard Russell Westbrook gave the Thunder a bit of breathing room just under a minute later, burying a 15-footer to push the lead to four. Bosh misfired on the other end and Westbrook found second-year forward Jeff Green for a driving dunk.
Westbrook and reigning Rookie of the Year Kevin Durant added two free throws apiece over the final 28 seconds to cap the spurt and put the game on ice.
"We played tough," Westbrook said. "Our guys knew we had to be aggressive all game. They are a great offensive rebounding team, and we knew we had to take it to them and we responded and we did what we had to do to get a win."
It is just Oklahoma City's third victory of the season and first since a 111-103 triumph over Memphis on November 29.
Durant finished with 23 points despite 8-of-23 shooting, while Westbrook collected 19 and eight assists.
While the Thunder had previously been winless in December, they had been inching closer and closer throughout the month. They rallied back from a big deficit against the Dallas Mavericks, only to lose by four. They pushed the mighty San Antonio Spurs to the brink, falling by just five, and stayed within striking distance of the likes of Orlando and Miami.
For a team struggling to overcome comparisons to the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers - who won just nine games all season - those kinds of moral victories can be valuable.
But after a month of just being close, the Thunder finally got their cigar on Friday.
"It's the little things in the past 10-20 games that haven't really gone our way," Durant said. "Tonight we were able to dig down deep and get a win."
They played some of their most impressive basketball of the season early on, as Green scored seven points in the first eight minutes of the game to help Oklahoma City take a 22-9 lead. They kept the Raptors at a safe distance for most of the first three quarters before Toronto finally sprung to life in the final frame.
"They were better than us tonight," Toronto interim coach Jay Triano said. "They made shots, we didn't. For the most part of the game they had the effort plays as well. They seemed to be a little quicker to the ball than we were. We were unable to hit open shots for the better part of the game."
Former No. 1 overall pick Andrea Bargnani knocked down three straight buckets - including a 3-pointer - to open up the fourth quarter as part of a 9-2 run that cut the Thunder's lead to just 71-68.
Later in the quarter, Bargnani found Bosh under the basket for a layup to knot things up at 76-76.
But that was as close as Toronto could get.
"Its a great feeling," Westbrook said. "We came out with aggression and showed our crowd and ourselves that we can play well. They tied the game in the fourth, and we withstood their run and made plays down the stretch."
With their fourth straight loss, the Raptors fell to just 2-7 under Triano, who took over for the fired Sam Mitchell on December 3. Bosh registered 22 points and 16 boards but was a miserable 6-of-18 from the floor.
"Chris got off to a slow start, but he stayed at it and earned trips to the free-throw line late in the game," Triano said. "He had opportunities at times to knock down open shots, but for whatever reason they didn't go in."
OKLAHOMA CITY 91 FINAL
Dec 19 10:22 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY 68 END, 3RD QTR
Dec 19 9:49 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY 46 HALFTIME
Dec 19 9:08 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY 26 END, 1ST QTR
Dec 19 8:36 PM
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