Kevin Durant twisted past Hedo Turkoglu on the left wing, and here came Dwight Howard.
Superman swats away shots like a giant windshield wiper. Blocks them or sends them on wild-goose detours away from the rim.
Durant had to hurry. The shot clock was expiring, the game was in the balance, and all Orlando needed was a stop so that it could drain yet another 3-pointer and send the Thunder to defeat.
But on this Thursday night, with America's NBA fans watching on TNT, shots went in and stars stood tall.
Durant's floating 15-footer beat the clock, sailed over Howard's menacing hand and nestled in the basket with 8.1 seconds in one of the most rousing games in Oklahoma City's five-year NBA history.
That shot gave the Thunder a four-point lead, and OKC beat the Magic 125-124 in a monument to offensive efficiency.
“Obviously, we couldn't stop them,” said Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy. “They hit a lot of shots. They hit a ton of shots.”
Of course, the same could be said of the Magic, which made 14 of 28 3-pointers; got 39 points from Superman, a notoriously-bad foul shooter who made 17 of 20 from the line; and committed just five turnovers. And yet Orlando lost.
Durant made 13 of 17 shots and scored 36 points. Russell Westbrook made 11 of 22 shots and posted a triple double (32 points, 13 assists, 10 rebounds). Against a team fifth in the NBA in scoring defense (93.3 points a game) and field-goal defense (43.9 percent), the Thunder scored 125 and shot 56.4 percent.
You know how we always call 89-78 games ugly? Then you have to anoint this one gorgeous.
The Thunder can't win like this come the playoffs. But on a cold January night, it was a lot of fun. And somewhat important.
Since routing the Bulls on Opening Night, the Thunder was 0-5 at home against the best teams in the league. Utah. Boston. San Antonio. Dallas twice.
That's ridiculous. It was high time the Thunder took care of business at home against the NBA elite.
“We're a good team,” said Thunder coach Scotty Brooks. “In order to be a better team, you gotta beat the best teams in the league.”
Any way possible, which on this night meant win a shootout.
The Thunder did so with a bevy of big shots. Baskets that barely beat the shot clock, including Thabo Sefalosha's 3-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer that made it 96-86, Jeff Green's desperation 3-pointer that made it 119-112 with 2:51 left and Durant's arch over the Windshield Wiper.
The Thunder ran the play Brooks wanted. Dribble off time, then clear out for Durant. Brooks says Durant is terrific in a one- or two-dribble sequence, going to his left, which he was on that play.
Durant's good one-on-one, but he's even better when he's not asked to do it all game long. Rarely against the Magic did the Thunder clear out for Durant, so his arsenal was not spent at crunch time.
Van Gundy said he didn't like even one possession defensively for Orlando but admitted “that's a tough shot for most people. I would have liked to have gotten there quicker. Dwight was coming, but he didn't get there quick enough.”
Brooks said the only problem with the play was that it started late. Durant caught the ball with about four seconds left on the shot clock. That's cutting it too close on most nights.
Not on this night. Not on a night when the stars shined and the shots swished.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He 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. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.