TORONTO - They started with eight players and finished with six including Reggie Jackson, who was hobbled by a thigh bruise. Three of the last men standing were on five fouls, just one whistle away from an ejection.
For the injury-plagued Oklahoma City Thunder, basketball is a war of attrition these days.
"It feels like a nightmare and I'm ready to wake up at any given time," said Jackson.
Playing the second of back-to-back games, the undermanned Thunder showed plenty of grit but ran out of players and steam in a 100-88 loss Tuesday night to the Toronto Raptors.
"They're scrapping. That's what they do," head coach Scott Brooks said approvingly of his team. "They're a scrappy group of guys."
Oklahoma City was missing Kevin Durant (foot), Russell Westbrook (hand), Grant Jerrett (ankle), Jeremy Lamb (back), Anthony Morrow (knee), Mitch McGary (foot) and Andre Roberson (foot) — leaving Brooks with eight healthy players for the second night in a row.
That was reduced to seven after forward Perry Jones was helped to the dressing room favouring a knee 53 seconds into the third quarter after a charge. He did not return, sidelined by a knee contusion.
To make matters worse, Sebastian Telfair was ejected with 1:57 remaining for a flagrant foul on Tyler Hansbrough.
"I hate to keep saying it, but it is part of it," Brooks said of the injuries. "You've still got to play. It's a five-on-five game and we still have five."
Serge Ibaka, Steven Adams and Jackson all finished with five fouls. Ibaka, with 25 points, finished two short of his career high.
There were seats to spare on the Thunder bench all night. During timeouts, it looked like the Raptors had two teams in front of their bench during timeouts. On the Oklahoma side, there was virtually no one left when the five players returned to the court.
"No excuse. we were there, we were fighting," said Ibaka, a native of the Republic of Congo.
The Thunder locker-room was almost deserted after the game. One player hobbled around on crutches while Durant, resplendent in an electric blue suit, sat nearby with one foot in a walking boot.
The six-foot-10 Ibaka, who played 45 minutes 58 seconds, and seven-foot Steven Adams, who was on the court for 30:58, could have made mixed drinks for a week with the ice bags attached to various parts of their big bodies.
Jackson played 41:43 and Lance Thomas and Adams both played more than 30 minutes.
Despite Oklahoma's lengthy injury list, Toronto coach Dwane Casey saw a dangerous team coming to visit.
"It's a wounded animal and Scott's going to have those guys playing hard," he warned.
The Thunder (1-4) are off to their worst start since going 1-15 in 2008-09. But they made eight of their first nine shots and finished the first quarter leading 30-23 thanks to 12-of-17 shooting. Jackson had seven assists in the quarter. Toronto, in contrast was 7-of-21, including 1-of-7 from the three-point line.
The Raptors outscored the Thunder 28-22 in the second and went to the half down just 52-51. Toronto took the lead seconds after Jackson limped off in the third and never looked back.
The Raptors outscored the Thunder 77-58 over the three final quarters.
Oklahoma City, which lost 116-85 in Brooklyn on Monday, returns home to face Memphis next.
"I'm going to say it once again. We're going to be whole sooner than later," said Brooks. "We just have to weather all these tough games coming up, We're going to still compete and still play the games like it's the most important thing on our agenda."
The Thunder could add a 16th player to their roster with a hardship exception, which requires at least four players missing consecutive games.
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