Russell Westbrook looks far more confident lately than he did the last time the Oklahoma City Thunder visited Dallas.
The red-hot Westbrook will try to help the Thunder notch a sixth straight victory Friday night when they face the Mavericks on the road for the first time since last season's playoffs.
Two of Westbrook's five highest-scoring efforts have come in his last five games. He had a season-high 36 points in a 102-90 victory at Phoenix on Monday and 32 in a 117-97 home win over Denver on Wednesday.
"I come into the game confident, honestly, and I just come out and take the shots that's given to me,' Westbrook said.
Westbrook's play is impressing teammate and Western Conference scoring leader Kevin Durant, who's averaging 32.4 points during the win streak.
"What can you do?" Durant said. "He's shooting the jump shot. If you pressure him, then he goes to the rim. It's like a nightmare when he's making that jump shot."
Oklahoma City (31-8) will play at Dallas (17-23) for the first time since completing a first-round playoff sweep there May 5.
Westbrook struggled in the two contests at the American Airlines Center, averaging 16.0 points and 35.5 percent shooting in the two contests. He scored 23.8 points a contest in the other 18 playoff games last year.
Westbrook came through the last time he faced the Mavericks with eight of his 16 points in the overtime of a 111-105 home victory Dec. 27. He redeemed himself after struggling to contain former UCLA teammate Darren Collison, who scored a season-high 32 points for Dallas including a 3-pointer that sent the game to OT.
Collison knows what to expect Friday.
"It's going to be a good game," he said. "Westbrook and Durant, they're very good players, we already know what they can do. They're going to be talented and explosive on the offensive end."
The Thunder have won seven straight meetings with the Mavericks including playoffs.
Durant scored 40 points in the first meeting while Dirk Nowitzki came off the bench for nine and shot 3 of 11 in his second game since returning from knee surgery.
Nowitzki is back in the starting lineup now, and he's regaining his past form in helping Dallas win a season-high four straight. He had 19 points and eight rebounds in a 105-100 home victory over Houston on Wednesday, and said his confidence is improving.
"I had some good looks,' Nowitzki said. "That 3 at the end of the third helped me get my rhythm. Sometimes all you need is to see the ball go through the hoop one time."
The Mavs are trying to complete a perfect four-game homestand after holding their first three opponents to averages of 93.7 points and 39.5 percent shooting. The Thunder average 105.4 points and 47.9 percent.
"We're going to have our hands full," Collison said. "The most important thing is that we've got to be tied in like we have been."
The Thunder shoot a league-best 83.6 percent at the foul line while the Mavs yield an average of 26.1 attempts for the second-worst mark in the NBA.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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