Following losses to a pair of fellow Western Conference contenders, the Oklahoma City Thunder are at risk of equaling their longest losing streak of the past four-plus seasons.
There's little reason to think that would actually happen.
The Thunder face one of the league's worst teams Saturday night when they try to avoid a winless three-game trip by beating the banged-up Milwaukee Bucks, who played on the road the previous day.
Though Oklahoma City (5-3) could take this game lightly considering Milwaukee (2-6) shares the East's worst record and has been decimated by injuries, just wanting to get back on track before a six-game homestand might be enough motivation. Plus, the Thunder surely want to avoid a three-game losing streak, which would match their worst since Russell Westbrook's rookie season of 2008-09.
It appeared Westbrook provided a bounce-back win one night after Wednesday's 111-103 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, hitting a long 3-pointer with 2.3 seconds left to give Oklahoma City a one-point lead over Golden State. However, Andre Iguodala hit a baseline fadeaway as time expired to give the Warriors a 116-115 victory.
"In this business, you have to move forward win or loss," Kevin Durant told the team's official website. "We're grateful for another opportunity to play Saturday night."
While Durant was held to 20 points after scoring at least 33 in three straight games, Westbrook had a season-high 31 and completed the Thunder's comeback from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter until Iguodala's shot spoiled it.
"Russell makes big shots. That's what the great players do in this league," coach Scott Brooks said.
Westbrook had the most recent of his six career triple-doubles in the Thunder's last visit to Milwaukee, a 109-99 win on March 30.
These teams have met five times since the start of 2010-11, with the Thunder winning all three matchups in Milwaukee while the Bucks have won both in Oklahoma City. However, those two victories came in regular-season finales with Brooks limiting most of his starters' minutes as the playoffs loomed, and Durant even sat out the most recent meeting as the Thunder fell 95-89 on April 17.
The Bucks would seem hard-pressed to keep up with them this time. Whereas Oklahoma City has surpassed 100 points in six straight games, Milwaukee has failed to do so once during its current four-game skid and could be missing many of its top players.
Third-leading scorer Caron Butler definitely won't be available, having recently left the team due to an injured shoulder. Butler missed Friday's 104-77 defeat in Indiana, as did Carlos Delfino (foot), Ersan Ilyasova (ankle), Brandon Knight (hamstring) and Larry Sanders (thumb). Gary Neal (foot) and Zaza Pachulia (foot) played after missing Wednesday's 94-91 loss at Orlando, but shot a combined 6 for 26.
It's unclear if any others will return Friday as the Bucks try to avoid matching their longest losing streak from all of last season.
The potential absence of Ilyasova and Sanders from the frontcourt would seem to give an edge to Thunder forward Serge Ibaka, who had a career-high 27 points Thursday. Ibaka also grabbed 13 rebounds for his third double-double in five games, a stretch during which he's averaging 18.6 points.
"He's been doing well because he's letting the game come to him," Durant said. "... He's playing off his teammates right now and he's playing some great basketball."
Durant and Ibaka could be rejoined in the starting frontcourt by Kendrick Perkins, who has missed the past two games following the death of his grandfather.
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