Warriors-Thunder Preview

Kevin Durant’s shooting touch has been a bit off lately. A game

against the Golden State Warriors could be what he needs to regain

his scoring prowess.

Durant, who has routinely frustrated the Warriors, looks to lead

the playoff-bound Oklahoma City Thunder to a fifth straight home

win over Golden State on Tuesday night.

Oklahoma City (48-24) clinched its second straight playoff berth

Sunday with a 99-90 victory over Portland. It was the ninth win in

10 games for the Northwest Division-leading Thunder, who own a 4

1/2-game lead over second-place Denver with 10 to play.

“A couple of years ago we were the worst team ever,” Durant told

the Thunder’s official website. “Two years later we have clinched

consecutive playoff appearances, so it feels good. We just have to

keep pushing.”

Russell Westbrook led the way Sunday with 28 points and hit

three 3-pointers in the final 5 1/2 minutes, including the clincher

with 21 seconds remaining. Oklahoma City is 16-3 when Westbrook

scores at least 28.

“Russell has a tremendous amount of pride and confidence in his

game and he’s improving everyday with us,” coach Scott Brooks said.

“He made the big shots.”

While Westbrook had a strong shooting performance, Durant had

another tough time finding his rhythm.

He missed 13 of 18 shots to finish with 21 points, six in the

second half. In his last four games, the two-time All-Star is

shooting 36.2 percent and averaging 23.3 points – 4.4 fewer than

his league-leading average.

Durant has had no such trouble scoring against Golden State

(32-42).

In 13 career games against the Warriors, Durant is averaging

30.2 points for his most versus any Western Conference

opponent.

Oklahoma City beat Golden State 114-109 at home Dec. 5 and lost

100-94 at Oracle Arena on Feb. 13. The Thunder, 7-1 in Oklahoma

City this month, have won all four home games against the Warriors

since moving from Seattle prior to the 2008-09 season.

The Oklahoma City Arena isn’t the only venue giving Golden State

trouble.

The Warriors have lost a season-worst six straight road games,

getting outscored by an average of 16.6 points in the last

five.

They are coming off Sunday’s 114-104 win over Washington, their

second straight following a six-game skid. Golden State hasn’t won

three in a row since Feb. 13-16.

Although they were officially eliminated from playoff contention

earlier Sunday, Monta Ellis is still determined to help lead the

Warriors to a strong finish. He played all 48 minutes against the

Wizards and finished with 37 points, a career high-tying 13 assists

and seven rebounds.

“This is our job. We’re pros. Our season is not over with yet,”

said Ellis, who has averaged 32.0 points in his last two games

after averaging 15.4 in his previous seven. “We still have eight

more games, just go out there and see how many we could win.”

The Warriors already have won six more games than they did last

season.

Ellis is averaging 31.0 points in the two games against the

Thunder this season and has topped the 25-point mark in five of the

last six meetings.

Golden State’s Stephen Curry had a season-high 39 points on

14-of-21 shooting in December’s matchup.