The NBA mid-season is approaching and it's safe to say Kevin Durant is a strong candidate for MVP.
The 6-foot-9 scoring machine for the Oklahoma City Thunder looks to shoot the lights out once again when his team returns home briefly for a matchup with the Northwest Division-rival Denver Nuggets at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Durant, one of league leaders with 28.9 ppg, has scored 20 or more points in 14 straight games and is coming off his second 40-point performance in the past three tries. He posted 41 points on 15-of-30 shooting in a 102-90 win at Phoenix on Monday -- three days after scoring a season-best 42 points in a road win over the Los Angeles Lakers.
"Russ (Westbrook) got it going early and I just tried to play off of everybody," Durant said. "My teammates just told me to go be aggressive and luckily my shots were falling."
Durant has made at least 10 shots in four straight games and is averaging 38.7 ppg in his past three. Westbrook added 36 points, eight rebounds and five assists in the recent win for the Thunder, who have won four straight and nine of their last 11 games. The Thunder completed a perfect three-game road trip and are in the midst of playing nine of 10 games as the visitor, with a six- game western trip set to begin Friday at Dallas.
Oklahoma City is 18-3 at home and has won 14 of the last 15 as the host.
In injury news for the defending Western Conference champions, forward/center Serge Ibaka has missed back-to-back games with a chest contusion and is questionable versus the Nuggets.
Denver has been on a roll with six straight wins and will step out of the friendly confines of the Pepsi Center briefly when it visits the OKC.
The Nuggets finished off a perfect four-game homestand with Tuesday's exciting 115-111 overtime triumph versus the Portland Trail Blazers and outscored the visitors, 16-12, in the extra period.
The lead went back-and-forth throughout the end of the fourth quarter and overtime as Nuggets big man JaVale McGee deposited an alley-oop dunk with 39.2 seconds left and Wilson Chandler sank a big 3-pointer with 14.9 seconds on the clock to give Denver a secure lead at 114-111. Chandler finished with 13 points and six rebounds off the bench.
"Wilson in the corner in our pick-and-roll stuff is tough to cover," said Nuggets coach George Karl. "We were a little bit lucky but we've been piecing our wins together in a very solid way."
Ty Lawson had 24 points and 12 assists, while Kenneth Faried chipped in 21 points and 11 boards.
"Our confidence level is pretty high. We know that January is very important for us, so our confidence needs to be high through the whole month," said Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari, who scored 25 in the win.
Denver improved to 15-2 as the host and will play just the second of three road games in a span of 18 Wednesday night. The Nuggets are just 9-14 as the guest this season.
The Nuggets and Thunder will play the first of four meetings Wednesday and are set to tangle again on Sunday in the Rocky Mountains. They will play twice in March. Oklahoma City went 2-1 against the Nuggets last season and has won four of the last five encounters between the teams.
Denver ended a three-game slide in the OKC with a 106-101 win last April 25.