The Oklahoma City Thunder is getting better in a hurry.
Four days after all-star point guard Russell Westbrook returned from a lengthy absence caused by a broken hand, reigning NBA most valuable player Kevin Durant is expected to make his season debut Tuesday night at New Orleans' Smoothie King Center.
Oklahoma City (5-12) plummeted into 12th place in the Western Conference standings without Westbrook and Durant but figures to make up ground quickly. Westbrook had 32 points and eight assists in his return Friday during the Thunder’s 105-78 rout of the New York Knicks.
Oklahoma City trails Phoenix by 4 1/2 games for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, an easily manageable deficit with 65 games left in the regular season.
Durant is coming off a season in which he averaged 32 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, but he could have difficulty winning a second consecutive MVP title considering he's missed so many games.