OKLAHOMA CITY: Try as they might, the Oklahoma City Thunder couldn’t slow down Toronto Raptors star DeMar DeRozan on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila).
DeRozan scored 37 points and Toronto broke through the Thunder’s stifling defense to hand them their first home loss of the season with a 112-102 victory at Chesapeake Energy Center arena.
“You have to have toughness to go against this team,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said of the Thunder.
“This is one of the toughest teams in the league. Billy (Donovan) has created a team that is hard-nosed, a tough place to play.
“You have to have a strong constitution to be able to come in here and compete with the Thunder.”
That answer came in the form of DeRozan, who made 13 of 22 shots from the field and 11 of 15 from the free-throw line as he scored a game-high 37 in front of a crowd of 18,200.
DeRozan has been on an impressive run. Heading into Wednesday’s game, the 27-year-old guard out of the University of Southern California has averaged 33.7 points on 52 percent shooting to kick off the season.
DeRozan is averaging more than nine free throw attempts a game, which is putting opposing defences on their heels.
Kyle Lowry had 19 points, 13 assists and nine rebounds for Toronto. Patrick Patterson came off the bench to score 13 points.
“A couple of guys started knocking down shots,” DeRozan said. “We’re going to continue to get better.
“The key was just continue to get stops and give ourselves the best opportunity to get good looks.
“As long as we did that, we felt like we had a great chance.”
Russell Westbrook nearly matched DeRozan by scoring 36 points for the Thunder. He also nearly had a triple-double as Westbrook had seven assists and seven rebounds.
In San Antonio, James Harden scored 24 points and dished out 15 assists to lead five Houston players in double figures as the Rockets held on for a 101-99 victory over the San Antonio Spurs at the AT&T Center.
Harden also had 12 rebounds, giving him his first triple-double of the season.
Leonard hit a step-back jumper to cut the advantage to 101-99 late in the game.
Harden then missed a three-pointer, and Leonard missed a jump shot.
Harden had the ball with 27 seconds left to try to expand the advantage. He drove into the paint but was called for a charge, giving the Spurs a final shot for the victory with five seconds remaining.
The Spurs got the ball to Leonard, who drove the lane. His layup was contested and bounced off the rim.
In Charlotte, North Carolina, Kemba Walker scored 21 points, and the Charlotte Hornets took control down the stretch to beat the Utah Jazz 104-98 and improve to 6-1 on the season.