A third consecutive victory might not matter much to most teams, but it should mean a great deal to the Oklahoma City Thunder if they get one Sunday.
Besides matching their longest winning streak since relocating to Oklahoma, the Thunder would move three games above .500 for the first time in nearly five years and halt an 11-game losing streak to the Houston Rockets.
Led by recent lottery picks Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City (9-7) is off to a good start following three consecutive last-place finishes in the Northwest Division.
The second-year Thunder's longest winning streak is three, achieved Feb. 28-March 4, and the franchise hasn't had a better one since Seattle won four straight April 2-9, 2006.
Oklahoma City opened this season 2-0 only to lose its next three, so a victory Sunday would put the team three games above .500 for the first time since the SuperSonics ended the 2004-05 season at 52-30.
While Durant has turned into a star, averaging 27.5 points, a big reason the Thunder are in this position is the development of Westbrook.
The fourth overall pick in 2008 had 20 points and seven assists Friday while outplaying rookie sensation Brandon Jennings in a 108-90 win over Milwaukee. Westbrook scored nine points during a 17-0 run to open the second half, and helped hold Jennings to 3-of-11 shooting and 12 points.
"I don't get buzzed up for anybody. I just go out and play my game, regardless of who it is," Westbrook said.
The UCLA product, averaging 18.4 points in the last eight games, has contributed 6.9 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game this season and even has five blocks over the past three.
"My job as a point guard is to get us going, especially on the defensive end, whether it's rebounding or passing the ball or defending, just get our team going on the right track," he said.
Westbrook had a season-high 33 points in the Thunder's lone matchup with the Rockets this season and Durant added 27, but Houston won 105-94 at home Nov. 6.
The Rockets took away Oklahoma City's other threats offensively and may employ a similar defensive strategy Sunday as they go for a 12th straight win over the Thunder franchise, dating to a 104-87 loss April 4, 2006.
Houston was much happier with its defense Friday despite losing, 92-84 to San Antonio, after letting Dallas shoot 65.5 percent in a 130-99 home loss Wednesday.
Friday marked the first time in four games the Rockets (8-8) held a team below 105 points, but offense turned out to be the problem. They shot a season-worst 35.9 percent from the field.
"We'd like to put together a game where we play well and feel good about ourselves on both ends," forward Shane Battier said. "We feel if we do that then winning and losing will take care of itself. We need to put together a full game."
Battier has been inconsistent offensively and went scoreless Friday, ending a streak of 27 consecutive games with a 3-pointer.
Luis Scola, however, has been playing well with averages of 18.4 points and 11.4 rebounds over the last five games.