By Randy Renner
Barring some sort of last minute healing, Thunder superstar Kevin Durant will likely miss his fifth game with a sprained big toe on his left foot.
This would be the 28th game Durant has missed this season after previously missing just 16 games in his entire career.
Thunder All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook is trying to hold things together as best he can and Westbrook has been a handful the last couple of games.
He had a triple-double against Orlando on Monday night and followed that up with a career-high tying 45 points Wednesday night in New Orleans. The Pelicans are up here in Oklahoma City tonight for an encore.
"Russell is as competitive as any player I have been around," coach Scott Brooks said. "He obviously has the talent and the skill base, but his heart and his desire to win, and to win every possession, is what makes him great."
Durant did not travel to New Orleans and wasn't able to practice Thursday. Since losing 14 of its first 20 without him, Oklahoma City has won five of its last seven such games.
Westbrook has averaged 36.7 points in the past three without Durant. He set a positive tone Wednesday by establishing a career high for points in a quarter with 19 in the first before helping the Thunder rally from 11 down in the third.
Former Pelicans guard Anthony Morrow added 14 points, and he's totaled 29 while shooting 5 of 7 from 3-point range in the last two games.
The Thunder defense shutout the Pelicans over the last 5-plus minutes on Wednesday night and held them to just 38.9 percent shooting.
OKC also did a much better job controlling Pels All-Star forward Anthony Davis who had 23 points but was just 9-for-21 shooting. Brooks switched up his defensive assignments putting centers Steven Adams and Kendrick Perkins on Davis and forward Serge Ibaka on Pelicans center Omer Asik. That move allowed Adams and Perkins to get physical with Davis while allowing Ibaka more room to roam and block shots from the help side instead of having to focus so much on Davis.
The strategy worked but New Orleans coach Monty Williams is sure to try to change things up and the Thunder understand that, having spent more of their practice time Thursday going over possible adjustments.
The Thunder also did a great job controlling guards Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon who combined to go 8-for-32 Wednesday night.
The Thunder have limited opponents to 39.3 percent shooting in the last five games overall and averaged 109.4 points over a season-high seven-game home winning streak.
The Phoenix Suns lost to Portland last night and play Utah tonight. So another Suns loss coupled with a Thunder win would bring OKC to within just one game of eighth place in the Western Conference. It was just a few days ago the Thunder found themselves four-and-a-half games behind the Suns.
A final decision on Durant's playing status likely won't be announced until Brooks meets with reporters about 90 minutes before tipoff but don't hold your breath on this one, KD likely will be on the bench in a suit rather than a uniform.