Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant spent nearly a decade as teammates with the Oklahoma City Thunder and now they are playing prominent roles in relatively new situations on two teams coming off starkly different results.
While Westbrook's Washington Wizards are coming off their finest outing of the young season, Durant's Brooklyn Nets are coming off their worst game of the season heading into Sunday's meeting in Brooklyn.
Westbrook and Durant teamed up from 2008-16, a stretch in which the Thunder lost the NBA Finals in five games to Miami in 2012 and reached the Western Conference finals three other times. The pairing ended in 2016 when Durant signed with Golden State and won two championships before signing with the Nets in 2019.
Westbrook remained in Oklahoma City for three more seasons but the Thunder could not get out of the first round and he was traded to Houston for Chris Paul. After one season in Houston, he joined Washington in a trade for John Wall.
So far the individual numbers are strong for both heading into the ninth head-to-head meeting between the former teammates.
Westbrook is averaging a triple-double with 19.8 points, 12.8 rebounds and 12.3 rebounds in four games while Durant is averaging 28.2 points and shooting 51 percent in his first five games with the Nets.
Westbrook was rested for the second time this season Friday when the Wizards ended a five-game losing streak and cruised to their first win. In Friday's 130-109 rout at Minnesota, Bradley Beal scored 31 points to lead eight players in double figures as the Wizards shot 55 percent and hit 16 3-pointers.
"The energy's totally different; it's just positive," Beal said. "It's uplifting. It's like a weight off your shoulders in a way, but it's even better to know we played the right way and played the way we know we're capable of playing."
Beal enters Sunday averaging a career-best 31.2 points on 48 percent shooting and has three 30-point games so far. He has topped at least 25 points in 28 of his last 29 games going back to last season and his six straight games with at least 25 to start this season are a team record.
Durant scored 28 points but the Nets turned in their worst showing of the season with Friday's 114-96 loss to Atlanta. Durant has scored at least 25 points in four straight games and the latest one occurred two nights after Brooklyn scored 145 points on Atlanta on 54 percent shooting
This time, the Nets missed their first 11 3-pointers, 30 of 37 3-point tries overall, shot a season-worst 40.7 percent and saw Kyrie Irving hit just 6 of 21 shots. It marked their third loss in four games since cruising to blowout wins over Golden State and Boston and each loss has seen them shoot 42 percent or less.
"We just got away from our principles," Brooklyn's Jeff Green said. "We allowed them to space us out a little bit more, which allowed them to get in the lane a lot. We got away from helping each other from being in the paint and being aware of the personnel. It got away from us tonight. It's one out of many. We just got to find a way to get better from this."
Washington won the first two meetings last season before Brooklyn posted a 118-110 victory in the Orlando bubble on Aug. 2 when Caris LeVert scored 34 points in a game Beal did not play in.