Kevin Durant continues to be one of the league's best scorers, and the Oklahoma City Thunder are reaping the benefits. That figures to be no different at home Sunday night against the Golden State Warriors, as some of Durant's best work has come against them.
The Warriors, though, hope a newfound toughness can help them slow down Durant and match their longest winning streak from all of last season - three games.
Durant is averaging 30.9 points in 17 career games against Golden State, second to his 31.4 against Washington for his best average against any team. He's averaged 33.0 along with 10.0 rebounds during Oklahoma City's current four-game win streak in the series, including three last season.
The three-time reigning scoring champ failed to reach 25 points in any of the first five games of the season but has since done so in five straight, including 27 in a 110-95 win at New Orleans on Friday. The Thunder (7-3) shot 54.1 percent from the floor and led by as much as 34 as the starters sat out the entire fourth quarter in their sixth win in seven games.
Durant shot 9 of 12, including 4 for 5 from 3-point range after entering the game 8 for 22. He also tallied nine rebounds, five assists, and two steals.
"I wanted to ignite my team, not by scoring the ball or rebounding or getting assists," Durant said. "I was just trying to inspire them by my hard work and playing with a good intensity level."
Kevin Martin played one of his best games with his new team, scoring 27 and making 6 of 11 3-point tries.
Russell Westbrook's role seems to be in the midst of a mild transformation, possibly compensating for the departure of playmaker James Harden. Westbrook's scoring is down - his 19.6 scoring average is four points below last season's mark - but his assists are at a career-high 8.5 per game compared to 5.5 in 2011-12.
Westbrook recorded 12 assists against the Hornets, his fourth game with 10 or more. He had four such outings in 66 games last season.
"It's not about me scoring a certain amount of points. That's not the issue," Westbrook said. "Our problem is we need to win games and that's all I try to do. ... When I go to the basket, a lot of guys are collapsing on me and guys are open, and my job is to make sure they get the ball on time and on target."
Golden State (5-4) comes off a 106-98 win at Minnesota on Friday. It was another strong showing for the Warriors' frontcourt. They limited the Timberwolves to 22 points in the paint after surrendering 20 to Atlanta in a 92-88 win two nights earlier.
The Warriors have outrebounded their last two opponents by a combined 31 boards even without center Andrew Bogut, who is sidelined indefinitely with an ankle injury.
"We made the adjustments and fortunately the last two games we've been doing a good job of securing the basketball, closing out defensive possessions," coach Mark Jackson said.
The emergence of first-round pick Harrison Barnes has been a boost. Barnes has averaged 18.5 points and 11.0 rebounds in the last two games, compared to 8.3 and 2.4, respectively, through his first seven.
Golden State has dropped six straight in Oklahoma City, giving up an average of 110.3 points.
The Associated Press News Service
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