The Oklahoma City Thunder certainly remember what a Kevin Durant injury meant for them earlier this season.
The Thunder could be without the NBA’s reigning MVP again Friday night when they try to continue their success against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Durant broke his right foot in the preseason and missed the first 17 games, leaving Oklahoma City (12-14) without its biggest offensive weapon. The Thunder won only five of those games, and averaged 90.9 points on 42.2 percent from the floor.
They averaged 106.2 points on 47.3 percent shooting in the nine games – seven wins – since his return, with Durant scoring 22.4. He scored 30 points in the first half Thursday at Golden State, but left before the break after stepping on Marreese Speights’ foot and the Thunder had their seven-game win streak snapped with a 114-109 loss.
The five-time All-Star left with a sprained right ankle and X-rays were negative.
"I wanted to play. I wanted go back out there, but we wanted to be cautious," Durant said. "I was a little nervous, but I knew that when I got up and started walking that it felt good. I just wanted to make sure with the X-ray that everything was good."
If Durant can’t go, that will only increase the pressure on Russell Westbrook, who had 33 points and eight assists against the Warriors. The All-Star guard is averaging 28.3 points and 7.3 assists in 10 games after sitting out 14 with a broken right hand.
Westbrook is scoring 26.3 points per game with 8.5 assists over his last four meetings with the Lakers (8-17), while Durant is scoring 33.8 points in the past nine regular-season matchups.
The duo each had 29 points in a 131-102 rout of the Lakers (8-17) on March 13.
The Thunder have won 13 of 17 matchups – playoffs included – against Los Angeles, averaging 108.6 points.
The Lakers are coming off their worst shooting performance of the season, making 33 percent from the floor while trailing by as many as 39 points in Monday’s 110-91 loss at Indiana, ending a season-best three-game win streak.
"They jumped out to a quick lead on us and we just compounded it that we couldn’t throw the ball in the ocean sitting on a boat," Kobe Bryant said. "Sometimes you just have to pat yourself on the back for an atrocious job. We didn’t have our legs at the start of the ball game. We just could not get ourselves activated."
That includes Bryant, who had a team-high 21 points, but went 8 for 26 from the field. He’s shooting 32.4 percent – including 5 of 19 from 3-point range – while averaging 23 points in the past three games.
He’ll face the Thunder for the first time since he had four points and 13 assists in a 122-97 loss at Oklahoma City on Dec. 13, 2013 – one of the six games he played in last season.
Bryant missed the other three meetings with a knee injury, but the Lakers won the most recent at home 114-110 on March 9.
Backup guard Nick Young is looking build on his 18 points against the Pacers, making half of his 12 attempts from the floor. That was a major improvement after he missed 7 of 9 from the field to finish with seven points in a 100-94 win at Minnesota a day earlier.