Regardless of how solid the Oklahoma City Thunder's standing in the Western Conference might be, their post-All-Star break struggles have Kevin Durant and company doing some soul searching.
Looking to avoid a third straight defeat, the visiting Thunder hope to begin their turnaround Sunday against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Third in the West, Oklahoma City (42-20) has a 9 1/2-game lead in the Northwest Division and is set to return to the playoffs after missing last season. However, the Thunder have gone 2-6 during a grueling post-All-Star break schedule that's featured two games with Golden State and only two sub-.500 opponents.
They've also had to deal with the passing of part-owner Aubrey McClendon, who was killed in a single-car crash Wednesday.
"We've definitely got to get it under control," said Durant, who has averaged 31.6 points and 11.4 rebounds in the last five games. "I'm not happy with the way we're playing. Obviously we want to win, but this is where you see what you're made of.
"Our backs are against the wall right now as far as where we want to be as a team."
While the recent issues against some of league's better teams are concerning, Oklahoma City also allowed a New Orleans club that's well below .500 to shoot 52.2 percent in a 123-119 loss Feb. 25.
The Thunder have allowed an average of 112.9 points since the break.
"When we're losing, that's when you've really got to show your character and who you are," Durant told the NBA's official website. "We're going to keep our heads up. All our guys are going to continue to stay positive, keep working, and learn from it."
The Thunder, who dropped a season-high three straight from Nov. 2-5, must again learn how to hold a lead.
One night after a blowing a 22-point lead in a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, Oklahoma City failed to hold a nine-point, third-quarter advantage in Thursday's 121-106 defeat to the Warriors. It was the second time in six days the Thunder couldn't keep a lead heading into the fourth against Golden State.
Their 10 defeats when leading after three quarters are tied with Philadelphia for most in the NBA.
"Next game. The next game," Durant after having nine turnovers Thursday. "That's the only opportunity we've got. We've got to go out there and win. That's what it's all about."
Oklahoma City has beaten the Bucks (26-36) six straight times when Durant has played, including a 131-123 victory Dec. 29. Durant and Russell Westbrook both missed the Thunder's only defeat in the last five meetings overall and the most recent in Milwaukee, 85-78 in November 2014.
Westbrook has averaged 27 points in his last three against the Bucks.
Khris Middleton scored a career-high 36 and Giannis Antetokounmpo added 27 with 10 rebounds against the Thunder in December. Middleton scored 32 and Antetokounmpo just missed his third triple-double in six games with 27 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds in Friday's 116-101 home win over Minnesota.
"It doesn't matter (about a triple double), we got the win," said Antetokounmpo, who has averaged 18.9 points and 11 rebounds in the past nine games. "We've got to build on this and move forward."
He's taken over the point guard duties recently, averaging 8.5 assists in the last six games while the Bucks have shot 50.7 percent. They're scoring 109.4 points per game since the All-Star break, 10 above their season average.