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Oklahoma City Thunder: Looking back on the best and worst of the 2012-13 season

John Rohde looks at the top moments, top performances, best wins and worst losses of this season and give OKC fans some key dates to watch this summer.
BY JOHN ROHDE Published: May 18, 2013
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TOP FIVE MOMENTS

1. Russell Westbrook injury (April 24, 2013): Game 2 in the opening round of the Western Conference playoffs. Thunder All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook, who hadn't missed a game in the NBA, college or high school, suffers a torn lateral meniscus in his right knee when he collides with Houston guard Patrick Beverley, who steps in front of Westbrook and swipes at the ball as Westbrook is calling timeout. Westbrook has season-ending surgery three days later. The Thunder beats the Rockets 4-2 to advance, but is eliminated in the second round 4-1 by the Memphis Grizzlies.

2. James Harden trade (Oct. 27, 2012): The Thunder offered Harden a four-year extension for roughly $52-$54 million rather than the $60 million max. Harden refused, so general manager Sam Presti worked a trade. It was simple economics. The Thunder couldn't go higher without getting heavily taxed. For Westbrook's knee injury to finish as a more significant moment than the Harden trade shows the importance of Westbrook, plus it's all in the timing. The timing of the Harden trade wasn't great, but a team would much rather work out the kinks in October than in May.

3. Serge Ibaka contract extension (Aug. 18, 2012): With a new season approaching, the Thunder was working to extend the rookie contracts of Harden and power forward Serge Ibaka. With these rather significant distractions out of the way, the team could concentrate on a potential championship run in 2012-13. Ibaka acted quickly by agreeing to a four-year, $49-million extension, plus another $2.5 million in incentives. Starting in 2013-14, Ibaka will be paid $12.25 million each year, which will help curtail the escalating annual salaries of Kevin Durant and Westbrook.

4. Scott Brooks' new contract (July 3, 2012): After technically being a free agent for roughly 72 hours, Brooks agreed to a new four-year contract reportedly worth between $16-$18 million that puts him in the NBA's Top 10 in terms of compensation. Not bad for a former interim coach who replaced a 1-12 coach in P.J. Carlesimo in 2008 only to start 1-12 himself. In his three full seasons, Brooks led the Thunder to 152 victories, the third-highest total in the NBA over that span. Brooks also had the very vocal endorsement of a superstar in Durant, which helped the cause.

5. Win No. 60/No. 1 seed (April 15, 2013): On the penultimate game of the season, the Thunder became the 20th franchise and the 68th team in the NBA's 64-year history to amass 60 victories in a season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, OKC had the fourth-youngest roster ever to win 60 games in a season. The 60th win came with a 104-95 victory over the Sacramento Kings at Chesapeake Energy Arena and also clinched the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference playoffs for the Thunder. Three days earlier, OKC clinched its third straight Northwest Division crown.

TOP FIVE PERFORMANCES

1. Kevin Durant's half-a-hundred (Jan. 18, 2013): Hard as it is to fathom, Durant entered his sixth NBA season having scored 50 points only once in high school, college or pro. He reached half-a-hundred for a second time on this night at American Airlines Center in Dallas. (Durant doesn't count the 66 points he scored in New York's Rucker Park in the summer of 2011.) In a 117-114 overtime win over the Mavericks, Durant tallied 52 points, despite shooting 13 for 31 from the field, but he was 21 for 21 at the free-throw line.

2. Russell Westbrook's return home (March 3, 2013): In a scintillating Sunday afternoon showdown, Westbrook returned to his home area and put on a show at Staples Center with 29 points on 11-of-20 shooting, plus 10 assists and six rebounds to lift the Thunder's season record to 43-16. With the game in LA, fittingly all the stars came out. Durant lent a hand with 35 points, nine rebounds four assists and two steals. Clippers point guard Chris Paul countered with 26 points, eight assists, six rebounds and four steals.

3. Durant hits 42nd street in LA (Jan. 11, 2013): With the Thunder beginning a three-game road trip against Los Angeles, Portland and Phoenix, Durant began the journey with a 42-point game in a 15-point victory over the Lakers at Staples Center. Durant buried a season-high 16 field goals on 25 shots (. 640) and also had eight rebounds and five assists. Durant had 25 points by halftime and had 40 points through the third quarter. OKC left the building 28-8, tied with the LA Clippers for the best record in the league.

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