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NBA Preview from The Sports Network



Friday, January 18th (All times Eastern)

Oklahoma City Thunder (31-8) at Dallas Mavericks (17-23), 9:30 p.m.

(Sports Network) - Kevin Durant is eyeing his fourth consecutive scoring title and is third in the NBA with 28.7 points per game.

The star of the Oklahoma City Thunder looks to lead his team on the road when it opens a six-game excursion Friday night against the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center.

Durant, who was selected as a starter for the Western Conference All-Stars, has scored 20 or more points in 15 straight games and posted that many in Wednesday's 117-97 blowout of the streaking Denver Nuggets. Denver had won six in a row and was behind the eight ball from the get-go, trailing 34-18 after the first 12 minutes. Russell Westbrook shot 12-of-20 for a game-high 32 points and Kevin Martin netted 20 for Oklahoma City.

"I thought we came out with great energy from the start on both ends of the floor," said Thunder coach Scott Brooks, whose team has won five in a row and seven of eight games.

Thunder forward/center Serge Ibaka returned to the floor after missing two straight games with a chest contusion and recorded five points, five blocks and six rebounds in almost 27 minutes (26:30). The Thunder shot 51.8 percent for the game and scored 28 points off 21 Denver turnovers.

Oklahoma City is first in the league with 105.4 ppg and third in field goal percentage (0.479), and won all three tests of a three-game road trip from Jan. 11-14. It is 12-5 as the guest and will also visit the Nuggets, Clippers, Warriors, Kings and Lakers on the western trek.

The Northwest-leading Thunder own a 6-2 road mark against teams from the West.

Dallas is riding a season-best four-game winning streak and will close out a four-game homestand Friday night.

The Mavericks have scored 100 or more points in each game during the surge, averaging 109.8 ppg in that time, and improved to 3-0 on the residency with a 105-100 triumph Wednesday over the Southwest-rival Houston Rockets.

Dirk Nowitzki led six Dallas players in double figures with 19 points and has reached double digits in scoring nine straight times, posting 16.4 ppg in that stretch for a Mavs squad that is 14-5 when scoring 100-plus points.

"Our defense was poor, we kept putting them on the free throw line, but we made plays," said Dallas coach Rick Carlisle. "We did what we needed to do to win. It was a tough game."

Shawn Marion and O.J. Mayo scored 18 points apiece for the Mavs, who are 11-7 in Big D this season. Mayo's foul shots gave Dallas a 99-97 lead with 1:02 remaining. The Mavericks made only 5-of-22 3-pointers and Elton Brand chipped in 11 points and 10 rebounds. They posted their seventh straight game with 13 or fewer turnovers (10) and made 34 of a season-high 43 free-throw attempts.

Dallas is slated to visit Orlando Sunday night and will have a break until next Friday's matchup with San Antonio.

The Mavs, of course, were swept by the Thunder in the first round of last season's playoffs and lost the first of four meetings between the teams by a 111-105 score in overtime on Dec. 27. Durant poured in 40 points for the Thunder, while Dallas was led by Darren Collison's 32 points.

Oklahoma City has won three straight and seven of the past 10 matchups with the Mavericks, but is only 4-15 in the previous 19 encounters in Big D.

01/18 10:29:33 ET

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