Thunder-Warriors Preview

Kevin Durant and Monta Ellis are among the premier scorers in

the NBA, but only one has been able to help his team into first

place.

A key stretch could have the Oklahoma City Thunder widening

their lead.

Durant and the Thunder wrap up a two-game swing against Ellis

and the Golden State Warriors on Sunday night.

Durant leads the league with 29.1 points per game while Ellis is

sixth at 25.1. The Thunder (34-18) have been able to capitalize on

Durant’s superb play to lead the Northwest Division by four games

over Denver.

The Warriors (23-29) haven’t been as successful, sitting third

in the Pacific and 5 1/2 games behind Portland for the eighth and

final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Durant has thrived against Golden State, averaging 33.7 points

over the last 10 meetings, resulting in seven wins. The forward

scored 28 points in Oklahoma City’s 114-109 home win over the

Warriors on Dec. 5 in the first of three meetings this season.

Durant will try to lead the Thunder to their fifth win six

games. He scored 35 points in a 99-97 victory over Sacramento on

Saturday.

“This was a good road win,” coach Scott Brooks said. “We knew we

were in for a tough game.”

The win also started a stretch of four consecutive games against

teams under .500. Following this contest, Oklahoma City returns

home to face the Kings on Tuesday and will meet the Los Angeles

Clippers on Feb. 22 after the All-Star break.

First, Durant and the Thunder will try to continue capitalizing

against the Warriors, who are second in the league in points

allowed per game at 106.1.

Oklahoma City is fifth in the NBA in scoring with 104.5 points

per game, but is averaging 112.3 during a four-game road winning

streak.

The Warriors have won four of five at home to improve to 17-11.

They’re also likely to be happy to be playing again at Oracle Arena

following one of their worst performances this season, a 112-88

rout in Phoenix on Thursday.

One night earlier, Golden State shot 51.1 percent in a 116-114

home win over Denver.

“You share with the younger players how hard it is that you have

to play every night in the NBA, back-to-back in particular,” coach

Keith Smart said, “but there’s nothing you can do with it.”

Ellis was just 4 of 13 shots from the floor to finish with eight

points against the Suns. He had been averaging 28.8 over the

previous four games.

Ellis outscored Durant on Dec. 5, finishing with 29 points.

However, Stephen Curry tops them both with a season-high 39 points,

three shy of his career-best.

Ellis’ backcourt mate is averaging 24.0 points on 58.1 percent

from the field while making 6 of 13 3-pointers in two home meetings

with Oklahoma City.

Curry, though, hasn’t come close to that type of production over

the last three games, averaging 13.3 points after getting 12

against the Suns. He’s second on the team with 18.8 points per game

and leads with 5.8 assists.