Thunder-Warriors Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 23, 2013
Kevin Durant's status as the NBA's leading scorer isn't much of a surprise, but he's been particularly impressive during the Oklahoma City's recent success on the road. Stephen Curry's impressive shooting has the Golden State Warriors regaining momentum. Durant and the NBA-best Thunder go for an eighth win in nine tries Wednesday night, when they attempt to beat Curry and the Warriors for a sixth straight meeting. Durant leads the league with 29.5 points per game, and the superstar forward is bidding for a fourth consecutive scoring title - a feat that hasn't been achieved since Michael Jordan reeled off seven in a row spanning 1986-87 through 1992-93. His production has been staggering during the Thunder's 5-1 run on the road, averaging 39.5 points while connecting on 51.4 percent from the floor - 42.0 from behind the arc. Durant's latest scoring output was the lowest of that stretch, but he still put up 32 points while making 12 of 19 field goals - 5 of 6 from long range - in Tuesday's 109-97 win over the Los Angeles Clippers. The Thunder (33-9) hit 15 3-pointers on 27 attempts - the franchise's most makes since going 16 of 31 from the perimeter on Feb. 23, 2005. Oklahoma City's 39.3 3-point percentage is tied with Golden State for tops in the league, and the Thunder are 16-1 when making at least nine from beyond the arc. "We were getting guys open for 3s," Durant said. "When we're driving and kicking, we're pretty good.'' The Warriors (25-15) are well aware of the threat posed by Durant, who averages 33.6 points over his last eight visits to Oracle Arena. He also had his first career triple-double against them at home Nov. 18, compiling 25 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists in a 119-109 victory, extending the Thunder's winning streak in the series to five games. "I think he's the most talented offensive player in the league," Golden State guard Jarrett Jack said. "Definitely size-wise, he presents a matchup problem with him being (6-foot-9). He's basically Dirk Nowitzki, but with better ball handling. He's a tough cover, but I think we have the guy that can make his looks difficult." Golden State also has an impressive outside shooter of its own in Curry, second in the NBA from 3-point range at 46.4 percent and eighth with a career-high 20.7 points per game. He's averaging 24.6 points while hitting 53.7 percent of 3s over his last five games "When you start to talk about elite point guards in this league ... as far as shooting the long ball, Stef is by far the best at his position," Jack said. "Playing with him on a regular basis I've got a better appreciation for him." The Warriors certainly appreciate Curry after losing back-to-back games last week while he sat out with an ankle injury. They've won both games since his return while he's totaled 48 points, including 28 in Monday's 106-99 win over the Pacific Division-leading Clippers. Golden State is 5 1/2 games back of Los Angeles, and closing that gap likely means another big effort from Curry since the Warriors surrender an average of 116.6 points over the past five meetings with the Thunder. Curry has 22.3 points per game over 11 career matchups, getting 22 on Nov. 18. David Lee had 12 points and 11 rebounds Monday, and may find himself matched up with Durant. He's averaging 22.2 points and 11.3 boards over the past six games with Oklahoma City. That includes 25 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for his second triple-double in a 119-116 loss in the most recent meeting in Oakland on Feb. 7. Durant finished with 33 points, getting two on the go-ahead jumper with 14.2 seconds left. Russell Westbrook has 31 points and seven assists in that visit, and he enters this one averaging 32.2 points over his last five games.
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