The Oklahoma City Thunder look like they'll be without Kevin Durant for at least one more game. Given Russell Westbrook's play of late and their success at home against the New York Knicks, they probably won't miss him.
Westbrook can register a third consecutive 40-point performance Friday night when the Thunder take on a Knicks team looking to win three in a row for the first time in 10 months.
Durant has missed the last four games after straining his hamstring in Washington on Nov. 10. He's listed as doubtful for this one, with a return Sunday against Dallas more likely.
The Thunder (7-5) have split the four games he's missed and avoided a third straight loss by beating New Orleans 110-103 on Wednesday in the opener of a three-game homestand.
Westbrook had 43 points, nine rebounds and eight assists after scoring 40 with 14 assists in a 122-114 loss at Memphis on Monday. He made 27 of 44 shots (61.4 percent) in those games after shooting 31.0 percent (13 for 42) in the first two without Durant.
''Obviously, Russell had another really efficient game,'' coach Billy Donovan said. ''He did some very, very good things.''
Westbrook scored 12 of the Thunder's final 15 points Wednesday and is on the verge of three straight 40-point efforts for the second time in his career. He scored 40, 49 and 43 from Feb. 27-March 5.
''It's just attack mode,'' said Westbrook, averaging 28.1 points after winning the scoring title last season with that same mark. ''Regardless of who is there, I know I'm kind of able to get in the paint and kind of disrupt the defense. My job is to be able to attack and take what the defense gives me.''
He had one of his 15 career 40-point games last season in New York, scoring 40 in a 100-92 loss in January. Westbrook also scored 32 on 12-of-17 shooting in a 105-78 rout last November that improved the Thunder to 6-1 all-time in the series in Oklahoma City.
Carmelo Anthony didn't play in that one due to back spasms and had 31 points to pace the Knicks in the matchup at Madison Square Garden. He's leading New York (6-6) with 23.1 points per game this season, but rookie forward Kristaps Porzingis has received the most buzz.
The No. 4 overall pick is coming off a season-best 29 points while also grabbing 11 rebounds for his fifth double-double in Tuesday's 102-94 home win over Charlotte.
''It's just one game. I want to keep doing this. Melo is doing this for every game,'' Porzingis said. ''So the easy part is to play one game like that, the hard part to keep playing at this level.''
Porzingis is among the rookie leaders with 12.8 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 25.3 minutes per game for an improved Knicks team that didn't win its sixth game last season until their 42nd game on Jan. 19 – the start of its last three-game run.
''Whether or not he'll ever be able to do this nightly we don't know at this point, but because of the combination of skills and abilities at some point it's all going to come together,'' coach Derek Fisher said. ''One night like tonight and then in a couple of weeks maybe there will be another night like tonight, but you could see he's getting more comfortable each game.''