The Oklahoma City Thunder roared past the struggling Toronto Raptors 115-89 on Friday for their ninth victory in 11 games, moving closer in their quest for fourth place in the Western Conference.
The win, coupled with Utah’s loss to Phoenix, left the Thunder (42-25), just a game behind the fourth-placed Jazz (44-25) in the West.
Kevin Durant scored 23 of his 31 points in a dominant first half for the Thunder, who handed Toronto a 10th loss in 12 games.
Unhappy home fans at Air Canada Centre booed the Raptors long and hard.
“They pretty much just kicked our ass, there’s really no nice way of putting it,” Toronto’s Chris Bosh, who had 22 points and 10 rebounds, told reporters.
Oklahoma City led 71-44 at halftime and stretched the margin to 34 points in the third period.
Jeff Green added 25 points and Russell Westbrook had 11 points and 10 assists for Oklahoma City.
“That was our best game of the year,” Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said.
He was especially pleased with the way the Thunder bounced back from a 100-92 loss at Charlotte on Wednesday that ended a five-game winning streak.
Thunder forward Nick Collison agreed.
“The way seasons go in the NBA, momentum, I think, is a real thing and you can get bad momentum, too, especially on the road,” Collison said. “It was really important for us to have a game like this, and play well and not get shook. Teams sometimes get shook a little bit when they don’t play well. Two games turn into three and so on.”
Raptors coach Jay Triano said Toronto must be more physical against a team like the Thunder.
“They’re more athletic than us and they’re quicker to the ball, and if you don’t get a piece of a body they’re going to win those battles half the time and that’s exactly what happened in that first half,” Triano said.
■CAVALIERS 92, BULLS 85
LeBron James became the youngest player to score 15,000 career points, breaking Kobe Bryant’s mark by about two years, as the Cleveland Cavaliers pulled away late to beat Chicago 92-85 on Friday for their 12th win in 13 games.
James scored 13 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter, giving him 15,026 in his career, and had 11 rebounds. He scored seven straight late in the game as Cleveland increased their lead to 10, sending the Bulls to their 10th straight loss.
James reached the milestone at 25 years, 79 days, and he did it in his 540th game. Bryant was 27 years, 136 days and playing his 657th game when he did it for the Los Angeles Lakers.
SUNS 110, JAZZ 100
In Phoenix, Arizona, Amare Stoudemire scored the first 11 points for Phoenix en route to a season-high 44 as the Suns led all the way in a victory over Utah that pulled them within a game of the Jazz for fourth place in the West.
Stoudemire made 14 of 16 shots and 16 of 18 free-throws. He scored 27 points in the second half, 16 in the final quarter, in Phoenix’s first victory over the Jazz in three tries this season.
Robin Lopez added 19 points and 10 rebounds, while Steve Nash had 15 points and 10 assists. Carlos Boozer had 23 points and 16 rebounds for Utah.
LAKERS 104, TIMBERWOLVES 96
In Los Angeles, Kobe Bryant had 22 points and a season-high 13 assists to lead Los Angeles to their sixth straight victory.
Lamar Odom scored 11 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter, while Pau Gasol added 17 points and 14 rebounds for the Lakers.