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Oklahoma City Thunder Earn 'A-' Grade From Sports Illustrated For Regular Season

As Britt Robson made out his grades for the 2011-12 NBA regular season, he's pretty spot-on in his assessment of the the Oklahoma City Thunder given that they finished a fabulous season at second in the Western Conference standings yet flopped toward the end against playoff-caliber opponents. The "A-" he gives Kevin Durant and company seems to fit quite well. He writes:

The Thunder's three stars excel at attacking opponents on isolation plays. The result is an idiosyncratic offense that commits the most turnovers and records the second-fewest assists in the league, yet ranks second in points per possession. More than ever, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden can get to the rim and/or the free-throw line, and in signature wins over the Heat and Lakers, they demonstrated that they can involve Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins in the scoring.

But Oklahoma City's ability to live up to its preseason hype as one of the elite teams in the West also stems from its renewed commitment to defense. The Thunder have jumped from 15th last season to ninth in points allowed per possession, with Thabo Sefolosha and Nick Collison acting as the impact players at that end. After a six-game winning streak that included victories against Miami, the Lakers and Chicago, OKC was 40-12 on April 1. Since then, the Thunder are a pedestrian 7-6 -- signs of a drop-off, or just conserving energy and resources for the postseason?

The Thunder face the Mavs in the first round of the playoffs starting this weekend.