-- SAN ANTONIO -- Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant rejected recent criticism directed at teammate Russell Westbrook's late-game management during the Thunder's two recent losses in Durant's absence.
"Who cares what people say?" said Durant, who missed his fourth straight game Thursday. "[He should] just play his game. From watching the last two games, he's the reason why we had a chance to win -- his aggressiveness, getting his teammates involved.
"Sometimes it's kind of hard in those situations, knowing exactly what to do when teams are making runs and playing you different ways. But I think he's handled it well. Of course, he's not going to be great every game, but that's how the dice rolls sometimes. I think he's handled it well to lead the team like he's been doing."
The Thunder lost consecutive games in the closing minutes before their 114-106 Christmas Day win over the San Antonio Spurs. In a 101-99 loss to New Orleans on Sunday night, Westbrook missed his final six shot attempts, including a contested 3-pointer at the buzzer. On Tuesday night, the Thunder coughed up a 10-point lead inside of two minutes in a 115-111 overtime loss to Portland in Oklahoma City. Westbrook was a willing passer out of double-teams during the closing stretch and 3-for-4 from the field in overtime, but he was assessed a technical foul with 1:32 left in regulation that launched the Trail Blazers' 13-3 rally.
"We should have won both," Durant said. "There's a fine line between winning and losing. We played well both games. It was a matter of a few-minute stretches, I think, that's what happened. It could've happened if I was on the court, too, so I'm not going to say it was because I wasn't out there.
"Sometimes that's how the game happens. Momentum switches sometimes. We've been playing well, I think, defensively. Offensively, we've been moving the ball, but there's just a fine line between winning a basketball game."
Durant hasn't played since spraining his right ankle -- the same foot in which he suffered a Jones fracture during the preseason -- when he landed on the foot of Warriors big man Marreese Speights during the Thunder's 114-109 loss to Golden State in Oakland on Dec. 18. Both Durant and Thunder coach Scott Brooks characterized Durant as "day-to-day."
"It hurts," Durant said. "But it's not worse than [previous ankle sprains]. I had surgery, and my foot is messed up. I had the ankle sprain on the same foot I had surgery on, so it's kind of lingering over the top of the foot a little bit, so it just hurts."
Third-year forward Perry Jones started in Durant's place.