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Valanciunas to make start as Raptors host Thunder

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The Sports Network
3/21/2014 1:02:16 PM
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(SportsNetwork.com) - The Toronto Raptors set their sights on a second straight victory with the Oklahoma City Thunder visiting the Air Canada Centre tonight riding a two game streak of their own.

The Raptors snapped a two-game losing streak in Wednesday's 107-100 road victory over the New Orleans Pelicans, while the Thunder dispatched the Chicago Bulls on Monday and then bested the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday as part of a three-game road swing.

Toronto bested the Thunder in Oklahoma City on Dec. 22 to snap a three-game series losing streak. OKC has won two of its last three in Toronto.

DeMar DeRozan poured in a game-high 31 points and Kyle Lowry tallied 23 points, eight rebounds and five assists in Wednesday's win over the Pelicans. Amir Johnson added 17 points and nine boards for the Raptors, who have won three of their last five.

Tyler Hansbrough chipped in a game-high 13 rebounds and Greivis Vasquez contributed 14 points.

"We understand we needed this game, plus we have a long flight back home that we didn't want to sit on this loss with," DeRozan said.

The Raptors will get a boost to their lineup this evening, as centre Jonas Valanciunas will return to the lineup as a starter. Valanciunas, who left Tuesday's loss to the Atlanta Hawks late in the third quarter with a lower back sprain, participated in the shoot around Friday morning and was declared ready to play about an hour before game time. 

Kevin Durant had 35 points, 11 rebounds and six assists to lead the Thunder over the Cavaliers on Thursday. It was his 33rd consecutive game with 25-plus points, which is the longest run of his career and the longest in the NBA since Michael Jordan strung 40 straight together during the 1986-87 season.

"My shot was a little flat and I missed some easy ones," said Durant, who shot 12-for-21 from the field. "I just tried to play as hard as I can on defense and make winning basketball plays."

Serge Ibaka supplied 16 points and 11 boards, while Reggie Jackson added 13 points and six assists for the Thunder, who have won four of their last five games.

Star Thunder guard Russell Westbrook did not suit up to rest his surgically- repaired knee.

Oklahoma City is 1 1/2 behind the San Antonio Spurs for Western Conference supremacy.

The Raptors are 2 1/2 games ahead of the Brooklyn Nets for the lead in the Atlantic Division, but they are only a half-game in front of the Bulls for the third seed in the Eastern Conference.

Toronto will play two straight north of the border and will host the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday.

Antic defends Valanciunas (Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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