Thunder resume playoff push, host new-look Mavs

( - The Oklahoma City Thunder will try to make a push toward the postseason when the NBA gets back to work Thursday.

The Thunder are a half-game off the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference and will host the Dallas Mavericks Thursday evening at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Oklahoma City started off slow this season with injuries to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, but are beginning to become a threat once again. It has won three in a row and five of the last six games, and headed to the All-Star break with last Wednesday's 105-89 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies.

Durant scored 26 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and Westbrook finished with 24 points, nine assists, nine boards and made all 15 of his free throws. Westbrook carried that performance over to the All-Star Game, scoring 41 points in the West's 163-158 victory Sunday night.

"I came out and made a few shots and when I made a few shots, I stayed aggressive," said Westbrook, the All-Star Game MVP.

The Thunder have won nine of their last 10 home games and are 16-8 as the host this season.

Dallas is in the heat of the playoff race at the fifth seed, and can improve its positioning with continued solid play.

The Mavericks went 2-1 on their homestand before the break and recorded an 87-82 triumph over the Utah Jazz last Wednesday. Jose Barea scored 22 points and All-Star Dirk Nowitzki recorded 15 and 14 rebounds.

Nowitzki was a replacement for the All-Star Game and had five points, including an alley-oop dunk from Warriors guard Stephen Curry.

"Steph kind of lobbed it up perfect ... not too high, kind of below the rim where I could still go get it," Nowitzki said. "That was the highlight of my day."

Dallas has won six of its last eight games and is 3-1 in the last four road games. The Mavs, who are 19-10 away from home, will start another three-game homestand Friday versus Houston, Charlotte and Toronto.

On the injury front for the Mavs, center Tyson Chandler (ankle sprain) is listed as questionable Thursday and guard Rajon Rondo is still nursing an orbital fracture to his left eye and a nasal fracture. However, Rondo was back at practice this week and plans on playing against the Thunder.

"I felt fine," Rondo said after Tuesday's practice. "We didn't do any contact, though. I have a mask made for me, but I don't know if I'm going to wear it or not. I tried to wear it today in practice, but we didn't have much contact today for me to put it on. I came in last night and shot in the mask. And it's custom made for my face, so it's not uncomfortable."

Rondo hasn't played since Jan. 31 (6 games).

The Mavs bolstered their frontcourt with the addition of veteran power forward Amar'e Stoudemire. Stoudemire was recently waived by the New York Knicks after reaching an agreement on a buyout.

Stoudemire was in the final season of a five-year, nearly $100 million contract he signed as a free agent in the summer of 2010.

"I'm excited to be a part of a first-class organization," Stoudemire said. "To play alongside Dirk Nowitzki, Tyson Chandler and other great players, I think it's a tremendous opportunity for me to compete for a championship."

The Mavericks defeated Oklahoma City, 112-107, on Dec. 28 in Big D, as Nowitzki poured in 30 points. Serge Ibaka paced the Thunder with 26 points to go along with 10 rebounds. Dallas has taken three in a row in this series after losing the previous 11 meetings between the teams.

Dallas and OKC will meet again March 16 and April 1.