Already faced with having to play without reigning MVP Kevin Durant, the Oklahoma City Thunder are trying to stay positive after losing their other superstar.
With Russell Westbrook expected to miss an extended period, the Thunder hope to avoid their first 0-3 start since moving from Seattle in Saturday night’s home opener against the Denver Nuggets.
Westbrook was supposed to be the focal point of the offense after Durant underwent surgery Oct. 16 to fix a bone fracture in his right foot. With the five-time All-Star likely sidelined until December, Westbrook finished with 38 points in a 106-89 season-opening loss at Portland on Wednesday.
The All-Star point guard, however, wasn’t able to stay healthy after playing in 46 games last season due to a pair of right knee surgeries. He suffered a small fracture in his right hand in the second quarter of Thursday’s 93-90 road loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
While there was no immediate word on how long he’ll be out, there is speculation that Westbrook could miss at least four weeks. That would leave the Thunder without two players who scored a combined 53.8 per game last season.
"We’ve just got to make sure we stay afloat, try to keep pushing to stay above, stay at .500 and then when they get back we just try to make a push," center Kendrick Perkins told the NBA’s official website.
Oklahoma City (0-2) will try to avoid dropping its first three games for the first time since an 0-8 start in 2007-8 – the franchise’s final season as the SuperSonics.
Backup point guard Reggie Jackson (ankle) has yet to play but might return Friday, as could Jeremy Lamb (back). If they don’t, the Thunder could still have only eight healthy available players.
"It’s unfortunate the way it is right now, but we have to figure out how to get better from all of our experiences," coach Scott Brooks said. "Good teams and good players bounce back from adversity, and our guys understand that."
Perry Jones, starting in Durant’s place, finished with a career-high 32 points Thursday and Serge Ibaka added 17 to go along with nine rebounds.
Ibaka’s biggest task Saturday may be to slow down Kenneth Faried, who could be headed for a breakout season after playing a starring role for the United States in this summer’s World Cup. Faried had 22 points and 17 rebounds in a season-opening 89-79 home win over Detroit on Wednesday.
The 24-year-old power forward has averaged 21.1 points and 13.4 boards in his last nine games dating to last season.
"It’s a carryover from the way he played at the end of last season to the summer with the U.S. team, throughout training camp," coach Brian Shaw said.
Ty Lawson struggled with three points on 1-of-7 shooting, but he’s averaged 26.3 in his last three trips to Oklahoma City.
Danilo Gallinari, JaVale McGee and Nate Robinson are playing limited minutes as they ease back from significant injuries. J.J. Hickson is serving a five-game suspension for a violation of the NBA’s anti-drug program.
The Nuggets dropped three of four in last season’s series and have lost six of eight in Oklahoma City, where the Thunder opened 13-0 last season.
Denver held the Pistons to 6 of 26 from 3-point range Wednesday, and the Thunder have hit 8 for 37 through two games (21.6 percent).