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Thunder Will Be Fine In Short Term Without Kevin Durant
The Oklahoma City Thunder aren't going to win the Western Conference without a healthy Kevin Durant, but they can win games in the interim without the reigning NBA MVP and four-time scoring champion. OKC hosts Indiana on Tuesday and is a 7-point Bovada favorite.
Back Under Knife
Durant underwent a minor procedure to help reduce pain and discomfort in his surgically repaired right foot over the weekend. He originally underwent a procedure in October to repair a Jones fracture in his right foot. According to GM Sam Presti, the fracture is healing as expected, but a screw inserted at the fifth metatarsal during the original procedure is rubbing against another bone, the cuboid bone, in another area, causing soreness and discomfort. To help alleviate the pain, Durant had a new screw inserted. Durant will be re-evaluated next week and could return that soon. But if the fracture isn't healing, he might not be back at all.
Durant missed his 29th game this season Sunday, a 119-94 win over the visiting Denver Nuggets, after missing only 16 total in the first seven years of his career. Durant is averaging 25.4 points, 6.6 rebounds and 4.1 assists in 27 games this season.
Russell Westbrook is good enough to carry the Thunder for a while. They are currently eighth in the Western Conference and you know the Warriors are praying that OKC doesn't make the playoffs as a No. 8. Golden State seems a lock to get the top seed so can you imagine a Warriors-Thunder first-round matchup?
That victory over Denver was Oklahoma City's sixth straight win. Westbrook had 21 points, a career-high 17 assists and eight rebounds. Westbrook became just the second player in NBA history (Magic Johnson) to have at least 20 points, 15 assists and five rebounds in a game while playing less than 30 minutes. The 17 assists are the most by a Thunder player since the team moved to Oklahoma City prior to the 2008-09 season. Westbrook shot 44 percent in the first 10 games that he played in but Durant missed, averaging 27.1 points and 7.2 assists as the Thunder went 5-5. He has shot 51 percent and averaged 32.8 points and 10.2 assists in the past five games that Durant has missed. The Thunder are 4-1 in those five games.
Westbrook is averaging 26.0 points, 7.7 assists and 6.3 rebounds. Only five players have averaged 26-7-and-6 over a full season: Oscar Robertson, LeBron James, John Havlicek, Michael Jordan and Larry Bird. Westbrook has been responsible for 43.4 points per game this season, a career-high. Only James Harden (44.1) has been responsible for more of his teams points per game this season. Westbrook might yet make a case for NBA MVP.
Indiana is fighting for a playoff spot in the East and has won three straight. It beat visiting Golden State 104-98 on Sunday as the Warriors played without star Steph Curry. Rodney Stuckey led the Pacers with 30 points, his second straight 30-point game. He is the first player in Pacers history with consecutive 30-point games off the bench.
The Thunder and Pacers split last season, each winning at home. OKC has won four straight at home in this series. Oklahoma City has won 11 of its past 12 overall at Chesapeake Energy Arena (the only loss during this stretch occurred on Feb. 6 when Anthony Davis made a game-winning 3-point field goal as time expired in regulation).
Key betting trends: Pacers are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games vs. a team with a winning S.U. record. Pacers are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 when their opponent scores 100 points or more in their previous game. Pacers are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games overall. Thunder are 6-0 ATS in their last 6 games overall. Thunder are 6-0 ATS in their last 6 after scoring 100 points or more in their previous game. Thunder are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 games following a SU win of more than 10 points.
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