Dirk Nowitzki seems to have found his shooting stroke in time for another scoring duel with Kevin Durant.
These All-Stars will be the focal point Monday night when Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder look to stretch their home win streak to 13 games as they face Nowitzki’s Dallas Mavericks.
Most offshore sports books monitored by SportsOptions have installed Oklahoma City as a seven-point home favorite, with the total set at 195.
Nowitzki scored a season-high 40 points as Dallas (22-16) snapped a four-game losing streak with a 102-96 home victory over Utah on Saturday. He had 20 in each half, and 13 in a row for his team at one point.
“I had a good rhythm tonight,” said Nowitzki, who shot 39.3 percent during the Mavericks’ losing streak. “I had not been really been shooting the ball well, especially from 15 to 16 feet. I just wanted to be aggressive and my teammates kept feeding me.”
Durant, meanwhile, is averaging 28.2 points for the season as he continues to battle the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant and Miami’s LeBron James for the scoring title. He is averaging 28.7 while helping Western Conference-leading Oklahoma City (29-8) take two of three from Dallas this season after the Mavs won last year’s West finals in five games.
Nowitzki is averaging 21.0 points in the season series after being held to eight points on 2-of-15 shooting in the last meeting, a 95-86 home loss Feb. 1.
The German 7-footer averaged 32.2 points with two 40-point efforts in last year’s conference finals while Durant averaged 28.0.
Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook has averaged 22.0 points in the first three meetings with Dallas, but is among the league’s worst with 4.1 turnovers per game. The Thunder average a league-worst 16.5 turnovers, and had 21 that led to 22 points for Atlanta in Saturday’s 97-90 road loss.
“We’ve got to fix it,” coach Scott Brooks said. “We keep talking about it. We’re working on it. But we’ve got to figure out that because it’s going to be hard to win night in, night out the way we turn it over.”
The Thunder had their seven-game win streak snapped. Durant scored 35, but made 3 of 10 shots from the field in a fourth quarter in which Oklahoma City connected on 5 of 21.
“We’ve won so many games down the stretch, and to lose this one, it’s tough, but it’s the luck of the draw, man,” Durant said. “We’ve got to move on.”
Oklahoma City will be confident about returning home, where they are 15-1 and will try to record the franchise’s first 13-game win streak since a 17-game run in Seattle from Nov. 11, 1994-Jan. 24, 1995. The Thunder are 6-1 after their first seven defeats.
Dallas comes to town after Lamar Odom returned Saturday with nine points, five rebounds and three blocks after he missed four games because of a family matter and personal reasons.
“It was really personal, something I had to tend to,” Odom said. “Mark Cuban is a great owner for understanding and knowing that sometimes we have to fix what’s going on off the court in order for us to fix what’s on the court.”