Thunder-Rockets Preview

Any time a player can match a scoring record held by Michael Jordan, it is an impressive accomplishment.

Kevin Durant has the chance to do just that as the Oklahoma City Thunder star seeks his 40th straight game of scoring at least 25 points on Friday night when his team faces the reeling Houston Rockets.

Jordan scored 25 or more in 40 consecutive games during the 1986-87 season, the longest streak in 50 years.

"That’s a lot of games to be scoring 25 points in a row,” guard Russell Westbrook said of Durant, who has not been held under 25 in a game since scoring 21 versus Boston on Jan. 5. "You can’t just not think about that. That’s an unbelievable stat. I think he may just finish the season doing that. He does that in his sleep."

Not only is their star player scoring, but the Thunder (55-19) keep winning. On Thursday, they defeated San Antonio 106-94, snapping the Spurs’ winning streak at 19 games and sweeping the season series. Oklahoma City – three games behind San Antonio for the league’s best record – has won seven of its last eight games, with Durant averaging 34.9 points in those contests.

Durant has saved some of his best performances this season for the Rockets, averaging 37.0 points on 51.7 percent shooting, with Oklahoma City winning all three games.

Since the Thunder dealt James Harden to Houston prior to the 2012-13 season, Oklahoma City has won nine of 12 between the teams and ousted Houston in six games in the first round of last season’s playoffs.

Houston (49-25) has lost its last three games, matching a season high. The string of defeats has coincided with the absence of starters Dwight Howard (ankle) and Patrick Beverley (knee). Howard’s absence has hurt defensively, with the Rockets allowing an average of 42.0 points during their losing streak and 110.0 per game overall.

"(Missing two starters) definitely changes things. Guys are not used to playing that many minutes and being asked to make that many plays," said Harden, who is 20 for 49 from the field but averaging 28.0 points in the three losses following Wednesday’s 107-103 defeat at Toronto. "It’s tough but like I said, we have to figure out a way to get through it. All the good teams have had their struggles. Ours is coming late in the season and we’ve got to figure it out."

Forward Terrence Jones has also been ineffective of late as he battles flu-like symptoms. Jones missed the second game of the losing streak because of the illness and has totaled two points in the two other contests.

"We’re a team that’s desperate for a win right now," said guard Jeremy Lin. "We’ve dropped three in a row and it’s definitely not a good feeling and we’ve got a tough one (versus Oklahoma City). We just have to regroup."

Westbrook won’t miss Beverley given the two’s history going back to Westbrook’s knee injury suffered in the postseason after Beverley dove to steal the ball from him as he called a timeout. Oklahoma City’s 106-98 win on March 11 was a chippy contest, with Durant, Howard and Beverley each being given a technical, a pair of on-court skirmishes between Westbrook and Beverley and a flagrant foul called on Thunder center Steven Adams.

Durant, though, had 42 points and Westbrook added 24 while Beverley finished with two points on 1-for-4 shooting and Harden had 28 points, nine assists and eight rebounds.

Houston is one game ahead of Portland for fourth, which carries home-court advantage in the first round.