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Oklahoma City atop the Western Conference thanks to Durant

The Oklahoma City Thunder leads the Northwest division by 1½ games over the Portland Trail Blazers, but more importantly leads the Western Conference by 1 game over the San Antonio Spurs.

The Thunder has won 7 straight games and 8 of its past 10 overall. Just the Indiana Pacers have a better overall record in the NBA as the second half of the season gets underway.

Not everything has been easy for the Thunder, as they have faced injuries to their point guard Russell Westbrook. Currently Westbrook is out with an injured knee and could miss another three weeks.

Kevin Durant the teams scoring machine, who has scored 30 points or more in 10 straight games, had to sit out Friday night against the Boston Celtics with a sore shoulder. He aggravated the shoulder in the Thunder’s win on Wednesday over San Antonio.

Durant returned to scored 32 and record a triple double on Saturday night against Philadelphia. Over his stretch of 10 straight games scoring 30 or more points, Durant is averaging just over 38 points per game.

Friday was the first time the Thunder played without Durant and Westbrook since both became members of the team. Coach Scott Brooks does not want to go many games without the two stars, but said other players have stepped up to help Durant and now have played without both Durant and Westbrook and still won.

Durant is averaging 31 points per game this season, which leads the NBA by nearly 5 points per game. If he can stay at the top, it will be his fourth scoring title in his first five seasons in the league.

Durant admits that he has not had a scoring run like the past 10 games.

He said has seen players like Kobe Bryant score 40 or more points in 9 consecutive games and Michael Jordan rack up 11 triple doubles over a 12 game stretch. He liked watching LeBron James average 35 points for a month. Those are the type of stats that you write home about, said Durant.

Asked if he considered his scoring streak special, he quickly responded no. However, do not tell that to his coach or teammates.

Coach Brooks says Durant scores so well because he is a smart player, he can dribble the ball well and score from different areas on the floor. Brooks said Durant also scores because of the good players that surround him on the court.

Boston was the last team to hold the sharpshooter below 30 points. On January 5 he managed just 21 points versus the Celtics at home in Oklahoma City.

Once Westbrook is healthy, the Thunder will be that much stronger on both ends of the court. The Western Conference is very deep, but the Thunder will remain on top or in the top two or three teams once the regular season comes to an end and the postseason begins.

Durant knows things should ease up for him offensively once Westbrook returns and if he and his teammates can keep the team on top in the West, they should be the team to beat once the playoffs arrive.

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