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The skinny on the Oklahoma City Thunder

By Mike Baldwin and Mike Sherman, The Oklahoman, mbaldwin@opubco.com, msherman@opubco.com Modified: April 17, 2010 at 12:05 am •  Published: April 17, 2010
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How the Thunder can win ...

Follow the (scoring) leader: Kevin Durant, the youngest player to lead the NBA in scoring, had 30 or more points a league-high 46 times. He provided steady production in no small part by making more free throws than any NBA player in 22 years. Warning: The Lakers held Durant to an average of six free throws ago — only Dallas (5.5 attempts) and Orlando (4.5) were more successful at keep him off the line.

Counter Showtime with Go-time: The Thunder's young legs produced one of the league's most potent transition games teams the second half of the season. OKC averaged 15.7 fast-break points to rank seventh in the league. Warning: The top three teams in fastbreak scoring (Golden State, Philadelphia and Memphis) didn't make the playoffs.

Take Thunder Road to the Staples Center: Only five teams had more road wins than the Thunder's 23. OKC beat nine playoff teams on the road (Boston, Dallas, Phoenix, Utah, Portland, Atlanta, San Antonio, Miami and Chicago). Said TNT's Doug Collins: “You would think they'd have a really good home record and be inferior on the road because those younger guys... That's the thing that impressed me the most, their focus and ability to play well on the road.”

Defend, defend, defend: Defense is the primary reason the Thunder made one of the top 10 single-season turnarounds in NBA history. Match their defensive effort of three weeks ago against the Lakers — throughout a playoff series — and everyone will forget the defensive slump.

Make them “Fear the Beard”: Rookie James Harden's beard and court awareness has won over fans. Regain his 3-point stroke — and he's showing signs of doing that — and Harden can produce wins over the Lakers.

Transform Krstic into Special K: If center Nenad Krstic is hitting his 17-foot jumper, he'll pull a Laker big man away from the basket. This opens driving lanes for Westbrook and offensive rebound opportunities for OKC. It also takes pressure off Durant. One stat speaks volumes: The Thunder is 27-3 when Krstic scores in double figures.