Oklahoma City takes the best record in the league and a 12-game winning streak into Thursday road contest against Minnesota. Oklahoma City, which dropped two of three to begin the season, has won 20 of 22 and hasn’t lost since Nov. 23. Kevin Durant scored a season-high 41 points in Wednesday’s 100-92 victory over Atlanta. He scored 18 points in the fourth quarter, when the Thunder held off a late rally by the Hawks, and had 13 rebounds.
The Timberwolves will play their second straight game against a team that made last season’s NBA Finals. Minnesota fell 103-92 win at Miami on Tuesday. Ricky Rubio is expected to play Thursday after sitting out against the Heat. The second-year point guard, who struggled in 16 scoreless minutes Monday against Orlando, won’t play in back-to-back games for now as he comes back from knee surgery. He had eight points and nine assists in 18 minutes in his season debut Saturday against Dallas.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (21-4, 16-8-1 ATS)
Russell Westbrook didn’t play like someone who had a bad wrist on Wednesday. He scored 27 points, including 21 in the first half, and 11 assists. Westbrook fell on his right wrist while driving to the basket late in Monday’s win over San Antonio, but played 39 minutes against the Hawks. Westbrook has played in 337 consecutive games, the longest streak among active players. He’s never missed an NBA game since being drafted out of UCLA in 2008.
MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES (12-11, 13-10 ATS)
Minnesota began the week with a four-game winning streak, but that could soon be a distant memory. After playing the Thunder, the Timberwolves face a Saturday road game against the New York Knicks, who have the best record in the Eastern Conference. A second-half collapse on Monday led to more criticism from forward Kevin Love. A week after questioning the franchise’s direction, Love said following the game that the Timberwolves must be more physical, especially on defense.
-Over is 4-1 in the last five meetings.
-Thunder are 1-5 ATS in the last six meetings in Minnesota.
-Thunder are 0-5 ATS in the last five meetings.
-Underdog is 5-0 ATS in the last five meetings.
-Minnesota C Nikola Pekovic, playing with a sore back against Miami, scored 18 points and had 12 rebounds, but committed six turnovers.
-The Thunder’s 12-game winning streak is the franchise’s longest since it moved from Seattle to Oklahoma City in 2008. The Seattle SuperSonics had a 14-game winning streak in 1996.
-Oklahoma City has 12 straight wins over Minnesota dating back to 2009.
While receiving good news regarding Dirk Nowitzki, the Dallas Mavericks may be shorthanded when they host the reigning champion Miami Heat on national television on Thursday. Nowitzki on Wednesday participated in his first practice since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery on Oct. 19 and is hoping to make his season debut shortly after Christmas. However, Dallas will be without point guard Derek Fisher for its meeting with Miami and also could be missing Elton Brand and Brandan Wright. Both are game-time decisions.
Fisher hurt his right knee during an awkward fall in the first quarter of Tuesday’s home triumph over Philadelphia, which halted Dallas’ three-game skid. Brand suffered a groin injury and Wright sprained his right ankle in the same contest. The Mavericks begin a stretch of three games in four nights against the Heat, who completed a 4-2 homestand Tuesday with a 103-92 triumph over Minnesota. Miami has won four of five after losing consecutive games for the first time this season.
MIAMI HEAT (16-6, 11-11 ATS)
Miami continued its strong fourth-quarter play in the win over the Timberwolves. The Heat never trailed in the final period, marking the 10th time this season and fourth time in the last five games they maintained the lead throughout the quarter. Superstar LeBron James is the first player to score at least 20 points in each of his team’s first 22 games since Utah’s Karl Malone in 1989-90. James is averaging 30.4 points in his last seven regular-season meetings with the Mavericks. The Heat are looking for their first three-game winning streak against the Mavericks since capturing 16 in a row from 1992-99.
DALLAS MAVERICKS (12-13, 12-13 ATS)
Nowitzki is cautiously optimistic about his prospects of returning to action before the end of the calendar year. “This is the first day we’re stopping, pushing off, moving, and we’ll just see how (the knee) reacts,” he said. “I’m gonna do that a couple of times and do some contact for a while, and maybe anytime after Christmas I’ll be fine.” Coach Rick Carlisle refuses to speculate on when Nowitzki will suit up. “We don’t know when he’s gonna play,” Carlisle said. “When it happens, it will happen. We hope it’s sooner than later, but we don’t have a time yet.”
-Over is 4-0 in the last 4 meetings.
-Heat are 7-2-1 ATS in the last 10 meetings in Dallas.
-Favourite is 3-1-1 ATS in the last 5 meetings.
-Road team is 15-5-2 ATS in the last 22 meetings.
-The Mavericks have allowed fewer than 90 points only once this season.
-The Heat are 22-29 overall in the all-time series and 10-15 at Dallas.
-Dallas is 8-3 at home and has won three straight at American Airlines Center.