HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Six wins in their last 10 games is a veritable cold snap for the Oklahoma City Thunder, who are coming off a 115-110 loss at Cleveland two nights ago. Most notable in defeat, however, was the painful right rib contusion that ailed the league’s top scorer, Kevin Durant.
Feared at best to be a game-time decision for tonight’s home game against the Dallas Mavericks (8 ET, League Pass), a team that has pushed the Thunder to overtime twice this season, Durant told reporters after OKC’s morning shootaround that he intends to be in the starting lineup:
Durant last missed a game more than two years ago, on Dec. 3, 2010, due to a left knee sprain — a span of 175 consecutive regular-season games. That injury cost him two games, and a left ankle sprain the previous month also forced him out of two games. Those four games are the only ones he’s missed since the start of the 2009-10 season.
OK, so he’s not exactly on the heels of A.C. Green‘s NBA Iron Man record of 1,192 consecutive games played or Andre Miller‘s 632-game streak that ended in 2010 due to a one-game league-issued suspension for shoving Clippers forward Blake Griffin. But, hey, give KD time.
In five-plus seasons, Durant has played in 427 of a possible 441 games. He missed a career-high eight games in his second season, including seven in a row with a sprained right ankle.
Durant was in considerable pain following Saturday’s loss at Cleveland, OKC’s fourth defeat in its last seven road games. Durant was inadvertently kneed in the back by Cavaliers guard Alonzo Gee in the third quarter. Durant left the game, but returned early in the fourth quarter and scored 13 points on 4-for-8 shooting in the final period to give him 32 points with 11 rebounds.
After receiving treatment for some time after the game, he gingerly walked out of the arena, appearing to be in quite a bit of discomfort to observers. Durant downplayed the injury to reporters: “If I can play, I’m all right. I was good. I came (back) in and played so that’s all that matters.”
And he will tonight. So, too, will Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki, who is coming back from a two-game absence with a right adductor strain. Nowitzki had been one of the legendary iron men in the league really until this season when he missed the first 27 games after having arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on Oct. 19.
He’s now played in just 18 of the Mavs’ 47 games and is averaging 14.8 ppg, his lowest mark since his rookie season and nearly seven points worse than last season when he missed four games early on with issues in the same right knee. He missed nine games in 2010-11 when he sprained his right knee during a game at OKC.
In his 15th season, Nowitzki has missed just 74 games with 29 coming this season. He missed six or fewer games in 12 consecutive seasons and a good number of those came at the end of the regular season for additional rest before the start of the playoffs.
Tonight, however, while Durant runs his consecutive games played streak to 176, Nowitzki’s resets again at one.