Durant Expected To Miss Tonight's Game
By Randy Renner
Thunder superstar Kevin Durant is still bothered by that sprained big toe on his left foot, he didn't practice yesterday and head coach Scott Brooks told reporters it's likely Durant will not be able to play tonight in New Orleans.
Brooks said Dion Waiters will start in place of KD if he in fact is sidelined again.
Durant has missed three of the past four games due to that troublesome toe. The Thunder have gone 10-16 without the reigning MVP.
While New Orleans closes a six-game home stand which has also included wins over Dallas and the Clippers, Oklahoma City looks to halt a four-game road losing streak during which it has averaged 89.3 points on 39.0 percent shooting.
The Thunder had dropped four of five overall until pulling out a 104-97 home win over Orlando on Monday. Russell Westbrook posted his second triple-double of the season with 25 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds.
"For us to win, my job is to be able to make sure everybody is getting the ball and make sure everybody is in the position to score, and that was one of those nights," Westbrook said.
Waiters had 24 points that night when he also started in place of Durant, and Serge Ibaka chipped in 16. Ibaka, though, has shot 35.5 percent in his last five on the road while missing 15 of 21 from beyond the arc. He's also had a combined 12 points on 5-of-19 shooting from the field in the two previous meetings with the Pelicans.
New Orleans won both meetings this season and three straight overall against Oklahoma City. Durant sat out a 101-99 home loss in the last matchup back in December. Westbrook totaled 50 points in those defeats but shot 34.0 percent and committed 13 turnovers. Jrue Holiday keyed those two wins for New Orleans with 25 assists but remains out with a leg injury.
A quirk in the schedule has the Thunder and the Pelicans playing each other in two consecutive games, tonight in New Orleans and then back in Oklahoma City on Friday. Even more interesting the is the fact that the Thunder are in 10th place in the Western Conference and the Pelicans are right in front of them in ninth so these two games could take on much more of a playoff type feel.
If the Pelicans win both ends of this home-and-home set they will become the first Western Conference team to sweep a season series from the Thunder in four years.
The Pelicans (26-22) have won six of seven, with the most notable victory coming Monday as they snapped Atlanta's franchise-record winning streak at 19 games with a 115-100 victory. Davis returned after missing one game with a groin strain to finish with 29 points and 13 rebounds for New Orleans, which never trailed after the first quarter against a Hawks team which hadn't lost since Dec. 26.
"We just need to continue to do what we've been doing," said MVP candidate Anthony Davis. "The past couple games, we've been rebounding, defending, sharing the ball. We don't care who scores. That's what we have to do."
Davis, scoring 28.0 per game in his last eight, has averaged 31.5 points and 11.0 rebounds in the season series.
He could help the Pelicans to a big advantage on the glass. They have a plus-14.0 rebounding margin in their last four games, while the Thunder own a minus-5.0 mark over their past six.
Tipoff is set for 7:10pm and you can see the game on Fox Sports Oklahoma.
Collison Signs Extension
With all the attention that's been paid to Reggie Jackson and his restricted free agency coming up and the expiring contract of Kendrick Perkins a lot of folks had probably forgotten about Nick Collison's expiring deal.
The Thunder and Collison have taken care of that matter, agreeing to a 2-year extension worth a reported $7.5 million.
“He does everything we ask on the court (and) off the court,” said Brooks. “He’s a true professional. He’s somebody that gives our younger players an example of how to prepare, how to be a pro, how to be a great teammate. He’s going to go down as one of the best teammates of all time, not just for our organization but from my experiences being on a lot of organizations as a player and as a coach he’s right there with the best of them.”
“A lot of it is I’ve been treated really well here,” Collison explained. “I really like the people I come to work with every day and I really had no reason to try and go anywhere else. This is my team, and as long as they felt the same way I’m glad we could get something done now.”
Collison has never been a flashy player but he brings a lot to the table.
“What he brings is not about stats," Brooks noted. "It’s about intangibles that it’s hard to put a number on it. It’s hard to put a value on it. But when you have a guy like that, you know how valuable he is.”
And clearly the Thunder know.