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NBA notebook: Kevin Durant lifts Thunder as Russell Westbrook recovers

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Kevin Durant is putting up points like never before, quite an accomplishment for a three-time NBA scoring champion. The 6-foot-9 forward couldn’t have picked a better time to raise his level of play for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

In 13 games since All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook was sidelined after surgery on his right knee, Durant has averaged 35.8 points, posted three of the five highest-scoring games of his career, scored at least 30 in seven straight and pushed his league-leading scoring average to 30.6 points per game.

Durant scored a career-high 54 points in a 127-121 win over Golden State last Friday, a performance that brought “MVP!” chants from the crowd and questions about the award afterward.

“It’s premature,” Durant said. “It’s way too early in the season. I try not to think about that type of stuff. Of course, as a player, you’d love to win an MVP award, but I can’t take my focus off the team.”

The seventh-year player has done it all with startling efficiency. Without Westbrook, Durant has shot 51 percent from the field and 87 percent from the free-throw line while averaging 7.4 rebounds and 5.8 assists.

“I’m being more comfortable trying to do different things,” he said.

The most important set of numbers to Durant and Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks is the team’s 8-5 record without Westbrook, a respectable mark given the opportunity Western Conference challengers San Antonio and Portland had to pull away from the Thunder in the standings.

Around the league

Miami guard Dwyane Wade missed his second straight game as he rested his knees, leaving Ray Allen as the fill-in starter against Atlanta. … Deron Williams returned to the Brooklyn Nets in a reserve role and Pablo Prigioni started for the Knicks as both New York teams got point guards back Monday. … Terrence Jones was out for the Houston Rockets against the Portland Trail Blazers with a deep thigh bruise.

– Associated Press


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