DALLAS — If only it weren’t so painful, Kevin Durant would have forgotten all about last year’s rotten start that culminated with just 23 wins.
"Seems like five or six years ago,” Durant admitted Friday. Winning can have that effect. With eight games remaining, the Thunder is wrapping up one of the finest turnarounds in NBA history, already having doubled last year’s victory total going into tonight’s game against Dallas at American Airlines Center. Three more wins will ensure that the Thunder matches the 10th-best single-season turnaround in league history. It’s a ride that has taken the Thunder from a relocated team written off as also-rans a year ago to a playoff-bound bunch this season. With a win tonight, the Thunder will officially clinch its first playoff spot since coming to Oklahoma City. "That’s something you’re always going to remember,” Durant said of the team’s turnaround. "Winning 23 games last year and now we have 46 with eight more games, it shows how we worked hard all summer as individuals and came into training camp and put it all together. It resulted in wins. It’s all about team here. That’s the reason I like it here so much.” What’s most impressive about this Thunder season is, unlike other teams with drastic improvements, Oklahoma City has done it without making a major addition. Boston, for example, set a record for one-year turnarounds in 2008 when it improved by 42 games and finished with 66 wins. The Celtics, though, acquired two future Hall of Famers in Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. San Antonio, second on the one-year improvement list with 36 more wins in 1998, drafted Tim Duncan and had David Robinson return from an injury.
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Playoff Facts→When: First-round games start April 17 and 18. Second round starts around May 2 or 3. →What: Each round is a best-of-7 series. →Home games: Teams seeded 1 through 4 host Games 1 and 2. Lower seed hosts Games 3 and 4. If more games are needed, the higher seed hosts Games 5 and 7, the lower seed Game 6. →Tickets: The Thunder will sell at least 500 individual tickets, possibly more, for all playoff games to the general public once the matchups are announced. The number of tickets available will be determined by how many season ticket holders committed to purchasing playoff tickets. BY MIKE BALDWIN