Pau Gasol's putback nestled through the net, then Russell Westbrook's prayer bounced off the iron, and then the strangest thing happened.
A Ford Center that had been alternately erupting and gasping down the stretch, only to lose all its energy when the clock hit zero with the Lakers ahead 95-94, came back to life.
The Thunder stormers started cheering, yelling their blue shirts off for a team that took this city on a wild ride, and the stately Lakers stood politely waiting to congratulate the Baby Boomers on a series well-played.
The Lakers had to wait because Kevin Durant was busy. He had his team huddled up, still on the hardwood, the despair of defeat not 30 seconds old, with a simple message.
"I told the guys, 'Next season starts now," Durant said.
Oh, if it were only true. Can we skip the off-season? The draft and the free-agency period and training camp? Can we go straight back to ballgames?
Go straight back to this amazing team and this wonderful game they play so hard, if not always so well?
As soon as this Western Conference playoff series ended on Westbrook's heave from the corner, which had no business staying in the same zip code as the basket but found the rim anyway, and Durant collapsed to the court in momentary anguish, I had one thought.
Wait 'til next year.
Not the Brooklyn Dodger refrain of maybe some day, maybe some year, but a rallying cry. A warning. Here comes the Thunder, sooner rather than later.
Kobe Bryant, who helped asphyxiate Oklahoma City's inaugural NBA playoff experience with a 32-point game, passed Durant in the Ford Center hallway 20 minutes after the game.
"Y'all some bad (expletive)," Bryant said. "I'm glad we're done with you."
Durant doesn't disagree.
"It's all a process," Durant said. "All about going through ups and downs, and tonight was one of the downs. But better days are ahead ... the sky's the limit."
The Thunder finale showed why. Durant had a miserable shooting game — 3-of-21 until two baskets in the final five minutes — and still the Lakers looked beat until Gasol rebounded Kobe's miss and banked in the go-ahead bucket with 0.5 seconds left.
Next season, even if it's the Lakers standing in the Thunder's way, no way does Ron Artest dog Durant into such a bad shooting series. No way does Serge Ibaka, who's just learning the game, let Gasol go free to the hoop in the final second.
Russell Westbrook, who got better by the month during the season and got better by the quarter in this series, became a star. Jeff Green will mature more, too, as he did Friday night, when he broke out of a shooting slump to score 16 points and give the Thunder a chance.
Nothing is guaranteed in the NBA, but a future that looked rosy has turned into a full-blown garden, and this Laker series was no small part.
"All of us feel we can make that next step," Westbrook said.
It's anyone's guess what that step is, be it playoff victory or Western Conference Finals. But putting a limit on this team seems foolish after what we've just seen.
The Thunder will grow up and won't let Durant go shotless in the last four possessions, as it did Friday night after he finally warmed up. Westbrook, a braveheart all series and all game, missed on all four possessions, including an open 12-foot jumper with 18 seconds left that would have given the Thunder a three-point lead.
But now's time to lament what might have been. Now's the time to celebrate what was.
A magical season, a stirring series and boundless hope.
Berry Tramel: 405-760-8080; Berry Tramel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.