TORONTO (CP) – The game, according to DeMar DeRozan, was the kind that players live for.
The ending was not.
Kevin Durant calmly drained a three-pointer with 1.7 seconds left to lift the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 119-118 victory over the Toronto Raptors in double overtime on Friday.
The buzzer-beating bomb from 31 yards out capped a 51-point performance by Durant, the league’s top scorer.
Still, DeRozan said there was plenty to take from the game that almost became the Raptors’ second win this season against one of the best in the West.
“That’s a helluva Western Conference team right there, and we fought with them to the end, we were blow for blow,” DeRozan said. “It came down to the last shot, those are the types of games you live for.
“We can’t win every game and we wish we would have got that one, but it still was a helluva game.”
DeRozan scored 33 points to top the Raptors (38-30) in just their sixth loss at home in 22 outings. Kyle Lowry added 25 points, including a three-pointer that forced a second overtime period, while Amir Johnson had 25 points and 12 rebounds, and Greivis Vasquez finished with 21 points.
Reggie Jackson added 25 points for the Thunder (51-18), while Russell Westbrook had 15 points before leaving the game in the third quarter with yet another knee injury.
Durant extended his scoring streak – of at least 25 points a game – to 34 consecutive games. It’s the league’s longest scoring streak since Michael Jordan’s 40-game run in 1986-87.
“Straight up, that was the craziest game I’ve ever been a part of,” Durant said.
With the capacity crowd of 19,800 fans on their feet, and a playoff vibe palpable at Air Canada Centre in the game that saw 23 lead changes, the Raptors dominated the second overtime period to nearly secure the hard-fought win.
DeRozan pumped a victorious fist when he scored on a pullup jumper with 2:37 left to put Toronto up by five. Fans chanted “M-V-P!” when Lowry stepped up to the line to sink two free throws that gave Toronto an eight-point lead.
But the Thunder rallied to pull within two on a three by Derek Fisher with 15.7 seconds left, then John Salmons missed on two free throws that surely would have sealed the victory for Toronto.
Then, with Johnson on Durant, the Thunder superstar pulled up and calmly launched his second three of the game’s final minute to send Toronto’s fans home unhappy.
“Yeah, yeah. . . I thought we had it,” DeRozan said. “Just give us one of those threes and the game is ours.”
Added coach Dwane Casey: “Great players make great plays and (Durant) made a great shot.”
DeRozan said that during a third-quarter timeout, Johnson had asked Casey if he could guard Durant.
“It means a lot, man,” DeRozan said of his teammate’s request. “I’ve got the utmost respect for him. . .That takes a lot of guts to go out there and play great defence. Got to give it to K.D., he made a lot of tough shots.”
Johnson said he thought he might be able to throw Durant off with his height. Both Johnson and Durant are six foot nine.
“It was tough, he’s my height out there shooting from halfcourt, there’s not too much you can do but double team that,” Johnson said. “It just came down to the stretch where he hit one off the glass (with 47 seconds left) and then that last shot was a tough shot. What can I say about that? It was just a tough shot.”
The game had gone into a second overtime tied 107-107 thanks to a three-pointer by Lowry with seven seconds left.
The game might have been bad news for Westbrook, who sprained his surgically-repaired right knee and with 7:37 left in the third quarter. Lowry had inadvertently bumped into the same knee the Thunder player had undergone his third surgery on in late December.
Lowry apologized to Westbrook, as he was being helped to the locker-room by teammate Hasheem Thabeet. Westbrook had sat out the Thunder’s 102-95 win at Cleveland the previous night to rest his troublesome knee.
Westbrook insisted afterward that he didn’t expect to miss any time.
“We’ll just see how it goes,” he said.
“It was fun,” he added on the game. “I was in the back wishing I could go out there and help them out but as you see, Kevin took care of that.”
The Raptors trailed Oklahoma City 72-71 going into the fourth quarter in a scrappy see-saw affair that saw 22 lead changes. The Thunder stretched their lead to seven points when Jackson chucked up an alley-oop to Durant for a dunk with 9:14 left to play.
Toronto chipped away at it, eventually taking a 90-89 lead with 3:08 left after a thrilling 30-second segment that saw five points and a steal from DeRozan, and a basket by Johnson.
The Raptors were trailing by three with just under a minute to go when Johnson hit one of two free throws then a layup with 17 seconds to go to send the game into the first extra period 96-96.
The Raptors had beaten the Thunder 104-98 on Dec. 22 at Oklahoma, ending the Thunder’s 13-game unbeaten streak at home.
That victory was one of the Raptors’ first significant wins after they overhauled their roster in a seven-player deal, and their solid play has continued as they’re poised to make the post-season for the first time in six years.
Durant and the Thunder got some revenge Friday.
Asked about Durant’s game-winning shot, Westbrook said: “Just letting it all hang out. He’s been doing that all season and tonight it was a win or go home. He’s playing at an MVP level as he’s been doing all season.”
Durant and Westbrook scored eight points apiece in a first quarter that saw the lead change hands several times and neither team lead by more than five. Durant scored on a stepback jumper with seven second to go to send the Thunder into the second half with a 22-20 lead.
The Raptors held their visitors to 24 per cent shooting in the second quarter, and a stepback jumper by Vasquez put the Raptors up by eight about four minutes into the frame. Westbrook drained a three with 1.9 seconds left to cut Toronto’s lead to 46-42 at halftime.
Durant had 14 points in a third quarter that saw the lead change hands nine times, and the Thunder led by one heading into the fourth.
NOTES: The Raptors had won six of their previous seven games against Western Conference teams. … The Thunder have won 12 of 14 games on the road against Eastern Conference competition. … Three-time world figure skating champion Patrick Chan was at the game. He was presented with a No. 14 Chan jersey. … The Raptors host the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday, a game that marks the return of The Raptor. The team mascot ruptured an Achilles tendon during training camp.