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Should Fans Be Concerned About Oklahoma City's Recent Struggles?

Over at the Daily Oklahoman, Darnell Mayberry has a look about whether Oklahoma City's less than dominant play against top-tier Western competition should be a concern:

The difference this year is the Thunder is so darned talented it still wins on most nights even in spite of some serious flaws. But, as always, the most pertinent question remains is the team getting better in its preparation for what many expect to be a deep playoff run, or is it simply piling up wins and plowing along?

The Thunder is averaging only 1.5 more assists than turnovers. The 16.7 turnovers per game rank the Thunder 29th in the league and are a staggering 2.3 more than OKC forces. Additionally, only Sacramento has a worse assist-to-turnover rate than the Thunder's 1.09-to-1 ratio. The Thunder also ranks 26th in defensive rebounding, allowing 12.5 offensive boards per game, the fourth most in the league. And teams are shooting 7.6 more shots on average than the Thunder.

At 18-5, Oklahoma City has the NBA's best record through the first third of the condensed 2011-2012 season.

However, their +4.8 point differential, a far more representative number of how well the team has played, is only the sixth best in the league.

The Thunder have gone from lovable young underdogs to a Western Conference title favorite, a process which magnifies any mistakes the team makes.

Both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have received max contract extensions in the last two years, and as far they are finding out, increased expectations are one of the prices of NBA stardom.