Even though Kevin Durant is sidelined again, fellow All-Star Russell Westbrook is ensuring the reigning MVP's absence doesn't lead to a downhill slide for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The New Orleans Pelicans are tasked with containing the point guard two days after he torched them at home.
With Durant questionable to return, Westbrook will try to build on his top scoring effort in three seasons Friday night when the Thunder look to wrap up a home-and-home sweep of the Pelicans.
Oklahoma City dropped four of five in late January while Durant missed two of those games because of a sprained left big toe. The club then appeared to be headed for an extended rough patch after learning Durant would have to miss more time.
Westbrook, however, has helped the Thunder (25-24) get on track with 25 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds in Monday's 104-97 home win over Orlando and a career high-tying 45 points in Wednesday's 102-91 victory at New Orleans (26-23).
Westbrook also scored 45 in a 149-140 double-overtime win over Minnesota on March 23, 2012.
''Russell is as competitive as any player I have been around,'' coach Scott Brooks said. ''He obviously has the talent and the skill base, but his heart and his desire to win, and to win every possession, is what makes him great.''
Durant did not travel to New Orleans and wasn't able to practice Thursday. Since losing 14 of its first 20 without him, Oklahoma City has won five of its last seven such games.
Westbrook has averaged 36.7 points in the past three without Durant. He set a positive tone Wednesday by establishing a career high for points in a quarter with 19 in the first before helping the Thunder rally from 11 down in the third.
"We made some adjustments in timeouts that we struggled with for whatever reasons," Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. "Give Russell credit. He made some shots that I don't think anybody could have defended."
Former Pelicans guard Anthony Morrow added 14 points, and he's totaled 29 while shooting 5 of 7 from 3-point range in the last two.
New Orleans was denied its fourth straight victory over the Thunder after taking the final matchup last season and winning 112-104 at home Dec. 2 and 101-99 in Oklahoma City on Dec. 21. The Pelicans haven't won the season series since taking all four meetings in 2008-09.
Anthony Davis had 38 points and 12 rebounds for New Orleans in the last matchup in Oklahoma City. Westbrook scored 29 on 10-of-27 shooting with Durant sidelined due to an ankle injury.
Davis had 23 points on 9-of-21 shooting Wednesday, while Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon went a combined 8 for 32 from the field.
The Pelicans will likely have to improve their 38.9 percent shooting from Wednesday to claim a seventh win in nine games. They're also looking to tighten up defensively after getting outscored 66-46 in the paint and allowing 27 fast-break points.
The Thunder have limited opponents to 39.3 percent shooting in the last five games overall and averaged 109.4 points over a season-high seven-game home winning streak.
"We just understand that it's going to take all of us to win a game on a floor where we've won before," Williams said. "We have confidence there. It's a hostile environment and we're used to that."