As the Oklahoma City Thunder keep their fingers crossed over another Kevin Durant injury, Russell Westbrook is taking matters into his own hands.
Having recorded triple-doubles in back-to-back games, Westbrook aims to lead the Thunder to a fourth straight win Sunday night against the visiting Boston Celtics.
Durant's strained left hamstring could prove to be a momentum-killer for an Oklahoma City team that appeared back on track after losing three straight Nov. 2-5, though the four-time NBA scoring champion's absence mattered little against lowly Philadelphia on Friday. Behind Westbrook's 21 points, career-high 17 rebounds and 11 assists and their best defensive effort of the season, the Thunder won 102-85.
Westbrook totaled 22 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists as Durant sat out the second half of Tuesday's 125-101 rout at Washington. He's expected to miss at least two more games before being re-evaluated.
Durant was limited to 27 games last season due to a foot injury that required three surgeries, causing Oklahoma City (6-3) to narrowly miss the playoffs despite Westbrook compiling a league-high 11 triple-doubles.
While the Thunder will continue to lean on their star point guard, who's had at least 20 points and 10 assists in six straight, they're counting on Dion Waiters continuing his strong recent play and more defensive performances like Friday's. Oklahoma City held rookie sensation Jahlil Okafor to six points on 3-of-18 from the field and the 76ers shot 34.9 percent.
"I think we did a good job, and we were able to focus on just get him out of the block,'' center Enes Kanter said of Okafor. ''We fought him really well, and he just got frustrated.''
Waiters is averaging 19.3 points, highlighted by a season-high 25 against Washington, and has gone 7 of 11 from 3-point range during the winning streak.
Anthony Morrow had a season-high 12 points starting in place of Durant on Friday and excelled in both 2014-15 meetings with Boston, totaling 48 points and shooting 67 percent in the Thunder's season sweep.
Oklahoma City has won five straight and eight of nine in the series, while the Celtics have dropped four straight at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Boston (4-4) has dealt with a short-handed backcourt of late, having played five straight without either Avery Bradley or Marcus Smart and with super-sub Isaiah Thomas in the starting lineup. Thomas shot 31.3 percent over a three-game stretch before recording 23 points and 10 assists in Friday's 106-93 home win over Atlanta, the Celtics' third victory in four games.
Thomas had 17 second-half points and Boston scored 61 over the final two quarters after being tied at 45 at intermission.
''We stayed composed,'' Thomas said. ''They made their run but we didn't panic. Young teams usually panic.''
Jared Sullinger notched his third consecutive double-double and reserve Kelly Olynyk contributed 15 points in 17 minutes. Olynyk is averaging 12.3 points and has gone 6 of 14 on 3s during the 3-1 stretch after averaging 3.7 points and making 1 of 10 from beyond the arc over his first three outings.
Bradley has missed two straight with a strained left calf but could return Sunday.