Standing in the way of the Brooklyn Nets finishing with the NBA’s best record in January are the hottest team and player in the league.
Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder, coming off a dazzling performance against the defending champions, can record their second double-digit winning streak since moving to the Sooner State as they visit the Nets on Friday night.
Durant’s streak of 12 straight games with at least 30 points matches the league’s best since Tracy McGrady’s run of 14 in 2002-03. His team owns the NBA’s longest current win streak at nine, and the only time the Thunder (37-10) have had a better one since leaving Seattle in 2008 was a 12-game run last season.
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Both streaks were extended Wednesday when Durant scored 33 as Oklahoma City rallied from an early 18-point deficit and rolled to a 112-95 win in Miami.
"I’ve scored points before in this league, it’s not like this is totally new to me. But this long of a stretch of 30 points, I guess, is different for me," said Durant, averaging 38.0 points during his 12-game tear.
"I’m just trying to do whatever my team needs, night in and night out, to figure out what we need to do to win a basketball game."
Only twice in 18 games since Christmas has Durant failed to score 30, and one came Jan. 2 against the Nets (20-23). They held him to 24 points, rallied from 10 down in the final seven minutes and won 95-93 at Oklahoma City on Joe Johnson’s jumper at the buzzer.
That victory propelled Brooklyn to a 10-2 record this month – both defeats came to Toronto. Every other team has at least three losses in January, though no club has been better in the second half of the month than the Thunder.
The Western Conference leaders have topped 100 points in every game of the streak, averaging 109.1 while shooting 51.3 percent. They’ve been no lower than that percentage in five straight games, including four on the road.
Serge Ibaka is shooting 59.3 percent during the streak while averaging 18.1 points, topping 20 for the third time in four games Wednesday. Derek Fisher scored a season-best 15 against Miami and is 13 of 21 from 3-point range over the past six games. Jeremy Lamb has totaled 32 points on 12-of-18 shooting in his last two.
"I trust in my teammates a lot more," Durant said. "No matter what happens, keep having faith in those guys."
Oklahoma City has surpassed 20 assists in five consecutive games despite being without point guard Russell Westbrook (knee).
"We’re just playing together, trying to really come together as a team," Lamb said. "… It’s fun when you play like that, sharing the ball. Everyone’s having fun."
So were the Nets until having a five-game winning streak snapped Monday with a 104-103 home loss to the Raptors. Paul Pierce had a season-high 33 points but missed a long 3-pointer as time expired.
Brooklyn had given up the go-ahead jumper to Patrick Patterson with 6 seconds left after he stole Deron Williams’ inbounds pass.
"I can’t take it back," Williams told the team’s official website. "It’s not my first time turning the ball over to lose the game, and probably won’t be my last, so we just have to respond on Friday."
That will be tough against a Thunder team which is 8-0 away from home versus East opponents. Brooklyn, though, joins Toronto as the only East teams to beat Oklahoma City, and Williams scored a season-best 29 in that win four weeks ago.