The Oklahoma City Thunder have been showing opponents lately why they shouldn't be taken lightly. The stumbling Utah Jazz already witnessed that this month.
The Jazz look to snap a season-high four-game losing streak Friday when they host the surging Thunder.
Utah (25-21) had its five-game winning streak against the Oklahoma City franchise snapped on Jan. 14 when the Thunder (11-35) beat the Jazz 114-93 at home. That defeat ended Utah's four-game win streak and triggered a 2-6 slump, including losses in its last four games for its worst skid since December 2007.
That victory over the Jazz sparked the Thunder's current 5-2 stretch. Eight of their 11 wins this season have come in the last 14 games, and now they're looking to win three straight for the first time this season.
Winning at EnergySolutions Arena could be a tougher task than beating the Jazz at home, however. Utah has been one of the NBA's best home teams over the last two seasons. It is 17-6 at home this season - 12-1 against the Western Conference - including a 104-97 win over the Thunder on Nov. 7.
The Jazz, though, are looking to avoid losing three straight home games for the first time since April 2007. The last two home losses have come against two of the league's top teams, falling to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday and 106-100 to the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday.
Deron Williams had 19 points and 13 assists Tuesday, while Mehmet Okur had 22 points and a season-high 17 rebounds for the Jazz, who were in a tie game after three quarters but were outscored 10-0 to open the fourth.
"We put ourselves in a bad position and we had to fight our way out the rest of the game," said Ronnie Brewer, who scored a team-high 23 points.
Utah was without Andrei Kirilenko, who missed his fourth straight game with a right ankle injury. The Jazz already are without star Carlos Boozer, who has been out for much of the season following knee surgery, and Kirilenko reportedly is going to need surgery as well.
Considering Kirilenko is the team leader with 1.6 steals and 1.4 blocks per game, he will be particularly missed by a Utah team which is struggling defensively.
In the last nine games, the Jazz have allowed an average of 108.1 points on 49.2 percent shooting. They had given up 97.5 points per game on 44.8 percent shooting in the previous 37.
Utah's defense will be put to the test Friday against Kevin Durant, who is averaging 31.5 points and 9.0 rebounds in Oklahoma City's last six games. He had 35 points, 10 boards, six assists and four blocks in the Thunder's 114-102 overtime win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday.
Durant began Oklahoma City's 14-0 run in overtime after Memphis scored first to make it 102-100. He scored six of the Thunder's points in the extra period, making up for his late turnover that led to the Grizzlies tying the game at the buzzer.
"He's 20 years old and he understands that there's going to be times when he makes the shot or he takes the shot and there's going to be times when he has to pass the ball, and he's learning that as we go into the season," coach Scott Brooks said.
The Thunder franchise last won three straight Jan. 29-Feb. 2, 2007.
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