Thunder Hope To Ring In New Year With Durant
By Randy Renner
After Tuesday's practice Thunder head coach Scott Brooks continued to say Kevin Durant "looked good" in practice. Brooks said KD showed no ill effects of having participated in all of Monday's practice and when reporters were allowed into the gym Tuesday he was putting up a lot of shots from various spots on the floor.
"For now he's still out for Wednesday's game," Brooks said. "But we'll see how he feels (Wednesday morning) but right now he's out until he's in. He'll be back soon."
Thunder fans (and players) hope "soon" becomes "tonight" when the Thunder host the Phoenix Suns in Oklahoma City's annual New year's Eve game at The Peake.
During a scrimmage Monday, Durant led the white team with 13 points scored in about five minutes of action according to center Kendrick Perkins who said KD "looked REAL good, real good" in the workout.
Durant missed the season's first 17 games with a foot injury, and fellow star Russell Westbrook missed 14 those contests with a fractured right hand as the Thunder limped to a 5-12 start.
Oklahoma City (15-17) went 7-2 as Durant averaged 22.4 points upon his return, but he suffered a sprained ankle after scoring 30 in a loss to Golden State on Dec. 18 and hasn't played since.
Westbrook has averaged 30.2 points in Durant's second extended absence, but he finished 6 of 23 from the field and scored just 18 with nine rebounds and nine assists in Sunday's 112-107 loss at Dallas.
The Thunder were outscored 31-19 in the fourth quarter of that Dallas game and are allowing an average of 103.7 points over their last seven. They gave up 93.9 points per game over their first 25.
"Most of the time it's been our defense," Perkins said. "We can get better on the offensive end and I feel like we will. We need to get back to our rule of trying to hold teams under 100 points. It's doesn't start late in the game, it starts throughout the game from the first quarter."
Durant's return could provide a spark on both ends of the floor. He scored 23 points and Westbrook had 28 in a 112-88 victory over Phoenix on Dec. 14 in Oklahoma City.
Westbrook has averaged 32.3 points in his last three against Phoenix while Durant has scored 32.0 in his last four against the Suns (18-15), who will be completing a four-game road trip on the second night of a back-to-back.
They had a six-game winning streak snapped with last night's 110-106 loss in New Orleans. Phoenix also had a five-game road winning streak end despite 22 points form Goran Dragic and 21 from Eric Bledsoe. Dragic missed that earlier game in OKC.
The Suns allowed a season-worst 58 points in the paint last night.
The Thunder will have shootaround late this morning and we may find out then if Durant is playing tonight or not. Most believe KD will indeed be back in the lineup tonight, barring some sort of setback.
Check back here later today for updates and on our Twitter feed page.