OKLAHOMA CITY – District native Kevin Durant has lost his past two games in Washington, but he has never lost to the Wizards at his adopted home. The Thunder has won four consecutive meetings at Chesapeake Energy Arena, including a 103-80 trouncing on March 27.
The Wizards (2-3) are looking to extend their win streak to three games and claim their first win in six tries in Oklahoma City – Washington also lost twice to Chris Paul and the New Orleans Hornets when the team was displaced because of Hurricane Katrina – but the task got a bit more difficult when Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook returned from a right knee injury last week, obliterating a six-week timetable to miss just two games.
“That’s too bad,” Coach Randy Wittman joked, when asked about Westbrook returning almost a month ahead of schedule. “It’s good for the game, to have guys come back. He’s a big part of the team. You saw that last year, when they lost him. I’m sure getting him back is going to solidify what this team is capable of being.”
In three games with Westbrook, the Thunder went undefeated and averaged 109.7 points, 23.3 assists and shooting 47.3 percent from the field. In its two games without Westbrook, Oklahoma City went 1-1 while averaging just 91 points and 12.5 assists on 37.8 percent shooting.
John Wall said he expected Westbrook to return ahead of schedule, but was stunned that he came back on such a vengeance. With no restrictions or limitations, Westbrook is averaging 21 points and 3.7 assists in 32 minutes.
“It was just surprising to see them say he’ll be out six weeks and he come out and played 33 minutes off the rip. Most of the time, off a knee injury, you come back slow, but some people are bred differently, they heal quicker,” Wall said. “It’s exciting to have an explosive point guard, a good point guard like that, to make the competition even better.”
Wall has had done well defensively in his past two matchups against Philadelphia’s Michael Carter-Williams and Brooklyn’s Deron Williams, but Westbrook presents a completely different challenge with his ruthless style of play.
“He presents a challenge for everybody. His speed with the ball, taking it up and down the floor is as good as anybody in the league,” Wittman said. “We can’t afford to have turnovers where he’s out in the open court, creating havoc with our turnovers and hey, he’s an aggressive player. Plays one way and that’s full speed.”
Wall said he is looking forward to testing his skills against one of the best at his position. “I’ll just play the way I’ve been playing lately, get my teammates involved and don’t make it into a one-on-one battle.”
(TV: Comcast SportsNet. Radio: WJFK-106.7, WFED-1500). Here’s some pregame/in-game reading: