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Playoffs provide Thunder chance to show if they can be better without James Harden

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    Houston Rockets' James Harden reacts after making a 3-pointer during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers in Los Angeles, Wednesday, April 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) (The Associated Press)

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    Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant, left, gestures during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Milwaukee Bucks in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, April 17, 2013. Milwaukee won 95-89. Thunder forward Serge Ibaka claps at right. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki) (The Associated Press)

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    Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westbrook, right, and Kevin Durant share a laugh during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers in Portland, Ore., Friday, April 12, 2013. Westbrook scored 33 points and Durant scored 16 as they beat the Trail Blazers 106-90.(AP Photo/Don Ryan) (The Associated Press)

The Oklahoma City Thunder have faced questions all season on whether they'd be able to succeed after trading James Harden away during training camp.

Harden blossomed in Houston, becoming an All-Star and the NBA's fifth-leading scorer in his first opportunity to be a franchise's featured player. That only led to more doubts over whether Oklahoma City could possibly be better after cutting ties with one of the league's best young players.

The Thunder? They posted a higher winning percentage than in any of their three seasons with Harden. Now, nearly six months after Harden's exit, comes the real test :Kevin Durant and Oklahoma City open the playoffs Sunday night against none other than Harden and the Rockets.