Coming off another strong game, Westbrook will try for a repeat performance when the surging Thunder host the Hornets on Wednesday night.
When Oklahoma City (38-24) and New Orleans (32-32) met Feb. 3, they were locked in a tight battle for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. However, Paul has been out since Jan. 29 due to knee surgery, and the Hornets have fallen several games behind Portland for the final spot while Oklahoma City has moved up to sixth place.
Durant scored 30 points and Westbrook had 26 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds in a 103-99 win over New Orleans in that meeting. The victory is part of a 14-3 stretch that has Oklahoma City battling for a top-four spot in the West.
While Paul has been unable to help the Hornets, Durant has gotten plenty of help from Westbrook as the Thunder have climbed in the standings.
Westbrook has averaged 20.0 points and 9.8 assists over the last 10 games. He scored 21 points with eight rebounds and four assists in a 108-102 win over Sacramento on Sunday that closed a three-game trip.
Westbrook had 13 points in the fourth quarter despite needing stitches in the third after taking an elbow to the right eye. He helped make up for the late struggles of Durant, who finished with 27 points but shot 1 of 5 in the fourth.
“He’s so quick, athletic and strong, and has a lot of moves,” Durant said. “He does a great job of getting to the rim.”
On Wednesday, Westbrook will try to again take advantage of Paul’s absence. The teams met for the first time this season Jan. 6, a 97-92 Hornets victory in which Westbrook had 11 points and shot 5 of 16.
Collison fell one assist shy of Paul’s franchise record as New Orleans snapped a four-game skid.
“It was very important to get this win,” Collison said. “We’ve been on a losing streak for awhile. We’re trying to jell right now as a team, as a group, so hopefully we can go to Oklahoma City and do the same thing.”
David West(notes) and Marcus Thornton(notes) each scored 28 as the Hornets set a season high for points. However, they lost forward Peja Stojakovic(notes) late in the third quarter with a strained right groin, and his status for Wednesday is uncertain.
New Orleans is beginning a critical stretch of schedule. Six of its next seven games are on the road, with five of the seven coming against teams with winning records.
The Hornets will likely need Collison to keep contributing for them to succeed during this stretch, as there is no timetable for Paul’s return.
Collison, who averaged 22.1 points over the last 15 games, was held to nine on 4-of-12 shooting against the Thunder in February. That loss snapped the Hornets’ 10-game winning streak in the series, with three of the victories coming at Oklahoma City.