After showing no ill effects from a brief absence, Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant seeks to continue the most dominant stretch of his career.
Durant will attempt to score at least 30 points in an 11th consecutive game and try to lead the Thunder to an eighth straight win Monday night against the visiting Atlanta Hawks.
Durant was forced to sit out a 101-83 win in Boston on Friday because of a sprained right shoulder, but was back in the lineup the next night in Philadelphia. The NBA’s leading scorer (31.1 ppg) not only registered 32 points to extend his career-best streak, but also recorded his fifth all-time triple-double and second this season.
"I hate sitting out, but it was best for me and my shoulder," said Durant, who is averaging 38.2 points in his last 10 games. "I guess that day off was needed."
Durant finished with 14 rebounds and 10 assists in a 103-91 victory. Serge Ibaka contributed 25 points, 11 rebounds and five blocked shots as Oklahoma City (35-10) swept a three-game trip.
"(Durant) has bounce in his step just about all the time, and that’s the beauty of our team and Kevin Durant. He loves the game. He’s always going to find enough energy to put us in a position to win a game," coach Scott Brooks said. "I thought tonight, (his) all-around game was fantastic. Having a triple-double after he came with a sore shoulder is remarkable on his part."
Durant’s streak of 30-plus point games is the NBA’s longest in a single season since Tracy McGrady had 14 in a row for Orlando in 2002-03. The Thunder forward is averaging 31.9 points in his last seven games against the Hawks (23-20) and has 30 or more in each of his team’s back-to-back wins in the series.
Durant had 30 points and 10 rebounds in the only matchup this season, a 101-92 victory in Atlanta on Dec. 10. He scored 41 on 14-of-23 shooting in a 100-92 road win Dec. 19, 2012.
The Hawks had given up an average of 112.6 points over a five-game stretch before cruising to a 112-87 win in Milwaukee on Saturday. Atlanta shot 52.6 percent after hitting 38.2 percent of its shots in a 105-79 loss to San Antonio the night before.
"Our focus was to come out and get back to competing. Guys worked pretty hard out there and the defense was good," said forward Paul Millsap, who had a team-best 20 points.
Millsap had team highs of 23 points and 12 rebounds against Oklahoma City earlier this season.
The Thunder, winners in six of the last eight in the series, have won their last seven games by an average of 11.0 points and have prevailed in their last five at home by an average of 13.6.
The Hawks arrive in Oklahoma City having won back-to-back road games after winning just two of their previous 11 away from Atlanta.