Already a respected scorer entering this season, Kevin Durant is now among the elite. Matchups with the Golden State Warriors certainly haven't hurt his cause.
Leading the surging Oklahoma City Thunder, Durant can move into sole possession for the league lead in scoring with another outstanding effort against the Warriors and their porous defense Saturday night.
Durant ranked sixth in scoring with 25.3 points per game last season, his second in the NBA.
A torrid run has pushed his scoring average this season to 29.69, five-hundredths of a point behind injured Denver forward Carmelo Anthony for the league lead. Anthony (ankle) isn't expected back until next week.
Durant is averaging 32.5 points over his last 23 games, helping the Thunder (28-21) win 15 of those contests. The 21-year-old forward has scored at least 25 points in 23 straight games, a feat nobody else has reached at his age.
"He scores, leads us in rebounds, steals, blocked shots. He does a lot for us," coach Scott Brooks said.
With a season-high 45 points in a 112-104 win over Golden State on Sunday night, Durant moved past Cleveland's LeBron James to take over second place in the scoring race. That effort was two points shy of his career high, set in a 100-98 loss to New Orleans last Feb. 17.
Durant needs 32 points versus the Warriors (13-35) to move past Anthony. Durant is averaging 34.3 points and 10.1 rebounds while shooting 42.9 percent (12 for 28) from 3-point range and 94.7 percent (54 for 57) from the free throw line in his last seven games against Golden State, which is allowing a league-worst 111.5 points a contest.
Oklahoma City got 30 points from Durant as it shot a season-high 57.5 percent in a 103-99 win over the Hornets on Wednesday night for its fourth straight victory.
It was an off night, though, by Durant's recent standards. After shooting 63.8 percent in his previous three games, he was 10 for 20 from the field and tied a season high with eight turnovers.
"I've got to continue to work and get better," he said.
This game will feature two of the league's hottest scorers. Golden State's Monta Ellis ranks sixth in the league with 26.5 points per game.
Like Durant, Ellis is playing some of the best basketball of his career. The fifth-year guard set a career high with 46 points in Golden State's 110-101 loss to Dallas on Wednesday night.
Ellis, however, has not had nearly as much team success as Durant. The Warriors have matched a season high with seven straight losses, surrendering an average of 117.0 points over the last five.
"I just want to win," Ellis said. "I'm not even looking at my career high. I'm looking at what we can do to turn it around."
Ellis made 17 of 23 from the field versus the Mavericks. He went 9 for 24 last week against Oklahoma City, finishing with 25 points.
Corey Maggette led Golden State with 26 points in that contest but was held to 11 in a 104-88 loss to the Thunder on Dec. 7, the only other meeting between the teams this season.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved