With the face of the franchise on the bench, Oklahoma City will attempt to accomplish something it wasn’t able to do with Kevin Durant in the lineup this season: win three straight games.
Hosting the Eastern Conference-worst Washington Wizards on Wednesday night could be the ideal situation for the Thunder to achieve their goal.
With Durant sidelined for a second straight game with a severely sprained right ankle and leading rebounder Jeff Green out with back spasms, rookie point guard Russell Westbrook carried the Thunder (15-45) to their second straight win Monday.
Westbrook had 17 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds for his first triple-double in a 96-87 victory over visiting Dallas. It was the 14th triple-double in franchise history and first for a Thunder player.
“I think we’ve got to prove something every night, honestly, and tonight I think we did a good job of coming out and playing as a team,” said Westbrook, who had 10 points, five assists and five rebounds in a 104-95 loss at Washington (14-46) on Dec. 27.
Westbrook, the Western Conference Rookie of the Month for February, is averaging 21.0 points, 8.5 assists and 7.0 rebounds since Durant suffered the injury in Friday’s 110-108 overtime loss to the Mavericks. Durant, among the league leaders in scoring (26.0), wore a walking book to Monday’s game and is not expected back until this weekend at the earliest.
Green, meanwhile, missed his first game of the season Monday. The second-year forward, averaging 7.0 rebounds, is questionable for Wednesday.
“Without Jeff and Kevin, it was a great opportunity not just for me but for everybody else,” said Krstic, who signed with the Thunder in December.
Thabo Sefolosha, acquired from Chicago on Feb. 19, has scored 15 points in each of the last two games. He is averaging 12.3 points and 7.3 rebounds in four games since being inserted into the starting lineup.
Washington is opening a four-game trip after Monday’s 98-89 loss to Atlanta. The Wizards, who have dropped four of five, are winless in 13 games against Southeast Division foes. Three more defeats within the division and Washington will become the first team ever to go an entire season without a division win.
“(Interim coach Ed Tapscott) brought it to our attention, I think it’s never happened in history, a team not getting a win against it’s division - that’s the least of our worries right now,” said Antawn Jamison, who had 29 points in the December win against Oklahoma City. “I think eventually we’ll get it done, but it’s ‘Groundhog Day’ once again.”
In this season full of injuries, Washington was dealt another setback Monday when Caron Butler - second on the team in scoring (20.3) - was sidelined with a left hamstring injury. He is questionable for this game.
Washington has dropped its last eight road games by an average of 16.9 points.