Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder are coming off a win despite one of their worst offensive performances. He’s really struggled against the Phoenix Suns recently, but that also hasn’t prevented the team from winning.
The two-time reigning scoring champion tries to lift the Thunder to a 14th consecutive home win and fifth in a row over the surging Suns on Wednesday night.
Durant, averaging 28.1 points to rank second in the NBA behind Kobe Bryant, scored at least 35 in his first two games this month before being held to 22 on Monday against Dallas. He shot 6 of 18 from the field - his second-worst percentage of the season - and tied a season high with seven turnovers, but Oklahoma City won 95-91.
“The thing is with us, we’ve just got to continue to just keep playing hard no matter if we’re making shots or not, and playing together on both ends,” Durant said.
The Thunder improved to 7-1 following a loss - they fell in Atlanta two nights earlier - and won their 13th straight in Oklahoma City. The franchise hasn’t had a longer streak at home during a single season since a 17-game run in Seattle in 1994-95.
They’re also riding their longest run of consecutive victories over Phoenix since winning six straight meetings bridging the 1995-96 and 1996-97 seasons. Oklahoma City (30-8) has won four in a row in this series, averaging 114.0 points on 51.7 percent shooting, even with Durant playing poorly.
He’s averaged 17.3 points in the past three matchups while shooting 34.9 percent. His 20.8 scoring average versus the Suns since the start of last season is his lowest against any opponent he’s faced more than once.
Durant had a season-low 12 points in a 107-97 home win over Phoenix on Dec. 31. He was 4 of 11 from the field, but the Thunder shot 53.2 percent and never trailed.
They hit 38.2 percent on Monday - their second-worst mark of the season - and now face a Phoenix team that has held its last three opponents below 40.0.
The Suns (17-20) came back from double-digit deficits to win all three games, something they hadn’t done since November 2002, and match their longest winning streak of the season.
“We’ve got a great rhythm right now, we are playing well and hopefully we are going to show up next game ready to play against Oklahoma,” center Marcin Gortat said after grabbing 17 rebounds in a 96-88 win over Sacramento on Monday.
That victory capped a 5-1 homestand. Phoenix hasn’t been nearly as good on the road lately, losing three straight while allowing 107.3 points per game.
Oklahoma City averages a league-leading 104.9 at home.
The matchup in the middle could be key. Gortat has averaged 18.0 points and 12.2 rebounds over his last 10 games. He’s been held to averages of 11.5 and 8.0 in two matchups with Oklahoma City when playing against Kendrick Perkins, who has averaged 10.4 boards in his last seven contests.
Russell Westbrook has gotten the better of Steve Nash when the All-Star point guards have gone head-to-head lately. Westbrook has helped limit Nash to averages of 9.8 points, 9.3 assists and 44.1 percent shooting during the Thunder’s four-game win streak over Phoenix. Westbrook has shot 51.7 percent in that span while averaging 21.3 points and 8.5 assists.
Nash tops the NBA with 10.9 assists per game and leads all guards in field-goal percentage at 53.8.