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Kevin Durant: OKC Thunder's visit to Orlando 'a must-win game'

The Thunder is 11-5 since the All-Star break, but has been feasting on weaker competition, leading to questions about how the team will fare in the postseason.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: March 21, 2013

/articleid/3768222/1/pictures/1987514">Photo - Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant (35) looks up during an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Denver Nuggets at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, March 19, 2013. Oklahoma CIty lose 114-104. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant (35) looks up during an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Denver Nuggets at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, March 19, 2013. Oklahoma CIty lose 114-104. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman

Has a potential 60-win season ever felt this empty?

Of course, there's always the James Harden factor. It was Harden's preseason trade to Houston, remember, that shaped this season and, like it or not, made this year's successes or failures a referendum on that daring deal.

In many ways, the Thunder must be applauded for how it has kept on trucking without its former third best player and reigning Sixth Man Award winner. But for a team that fell short in the NBA Finals last season, regular-season results no longer matter, and it's now Harden's absence that has ironically become a chief concern regarding the Thunder's playoff prospects this time around.

Expectations, however, won't allow for excuses.

The question is, what are we to make of this funk?

Last year, we saw a similar slump at the tail end of the season. The Thunder went 11-5 in its first 16 games out of the All-Star break a year ago as well. Additionally, OKC went 8-7 in last year's final 15 games. An 0-2 start in the final 15 this year could set up an identical mark.

Last year's finish obviously was forgotten when the playoffs started. It's possible this year could shake out the same way.

But unlike last season, this year's Thunder squad doesn't have Harden to help right the ship in the postseason.

by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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Thunder at Magic

When: 6 p.m. Friday

Where: Amway Center

TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma (Cox 37/HD 722, DirecTV 679, Dish 441, U-Verse 754/HD 1754)

Radio: WWLS-FM 98.1, WWLS-AM 640

Three things to know

* This is the second and final meeting between the Thunder and Magic. The Thunder won the first game, 117-104, in Oklahoma City on March 15.

* The Thunder led by as many as 27 points in the first game against the Magic. Orlando stormed back in the second half and cut the deficit to four late in the game.

* Magic center Nikola Vucevic did not play in Orlando's last game because of illness.

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