After learning they’d have to endure another stretch without Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook made sure the Oklahoma City Thunder would have no problem extending the offensive surge that has keyed their winning streak.
They might not have as easy of a time against the improving Indiana Pacers, who are as healthy as they’ve been all season.
As Westbrook looks to continue his strong play without the reigning MVP, the Thunder will try to match their longest winning streak of the season at seven Tuesday night against the visiting Pacers.
Durant is expected to miss at least a week after he had minor surgery Sunday to alleviate pain in his right foot. The six-time All-Star has been limited to 27 games because of the broken foot, sprained right ankle and sprained left big toe.
The Thunder (31-25) haven’t let that keep them from building a slight advantage in the race for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot after a 3-12 start. They’ve won four in a row and seven of their last nine without Durant.
Westbrook has played a major role in that success, averaging 32.8 points and 10.2 assists in the last five games when Durant has been sidelined. He’s also put up 29.3 points and 12.3 assists per game in the past three overall following a 41-point effort in the All-Star Game.
”Russell’s at a high level, but he’s been playing this way for a long time, for a lot of years, and every year, like all the special players do, they come back a little bit better,” coach Scott Brooks said.
Westbrook had 21 points, a career-high 17 assists and eight rebounds in Sunday’s 119-94 home win over Denver.
Enes Kanter contributed 20 points and 12 rebounds for his second double-double in as many starts since being acquired from Utah on Thursday. Serge Ibaka added 20 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
The Thunder are averaging 115.5 points during their streak after entering the stretch scoring just 99.5 per game.
The Pacers (23-33) should provide a difficult test after limiting opponents to 95.3 points on 41.4 percent shooting in their last four games. They took advantage of Stephen Curry’s absence Sunday, holding Golden State to 38.2 percent from the floor and well below its league-leading 110.3 scoring average in a 104-98 home win.
Paul George was the lone player on the injury report for the Pacers, who have lost a total of 180 games due to injury.
Rodney Stuckey overcame a sprained left ankle to match a season high with 30 points off the bench as Indiana inched closer to a playoff spot with a season high-tying third straight win and sixth in seven games.
”We’ve been playing great basketball and it’s another great win against a great team,” said Stuckey, who also scored 30 in a 106-95 win at Philadelphia on Friday. ”We’ve just got to keep it up.”
The Pacers are showing life offensively, scoring 104.1 per game over their last seven after averaging 92.6 in their previous eight. The Thunder, though, have held opponents to 40.9 percent shooting since Jan. 26 – the best mark in the league.
Oklahoma City (plus-4.2) and Indiana (2.8) both rank among the league leaders in rebounding margin, and the Thunder have posted an impressive plus-16.5 mark over their last four games.
They’ve also won 11 of 12 at Chesapeake Energy Arena and eight of nine home meetings with the Pacers.