Everything was going so well for the Thunder, running so smooth against the Pacers that you could glimpse the glorious future.
If things were this good with the first-string center in street clothes, how good will they be when Kendrick Perkins is finally in a Thunder uniform?
Then, Kevin Durant went and stepped on Tyler Hansbrough's big ol' Nike.
Late in the third quarter, the Thunder superstar drove the lane, but on the way to the hoop, his left foot planted on top of the Indiana big man's shoe. His leg twisted awkwardly. Durant crumpled a bit, then looked to the bench for a sub as soon as he regained his balance.
When he hobbled to the sideline, he didn't stop at the bench but kept right on going to the locker room.
Suddenly, a 113-89 blowout of Indiana seemed unimportant.
Durant suffered a sprained left ankle. He didn't return to the arena floor after suffering the injury Wednesday night, and he was wearing a protective boot in the locker room after the game.
Apparently, though, he wasn't feeling too bad.
“I'm out for the year,” he said when asked how his ankle was.
He quickly flashed a Cheshire-cat grin.
“I'm just playin'.”
Deep breath, Thunder fans. The guy's going to live to play another day, maybe even Friday at Atlanta.
“Hopefully, I'm ready to go,” he said. “Just a little tweak. I did it before. Just gotta see how I feel in the morning.”
It's never good when your superstar leaves the arena wearing one shoe and carrying the other. The truth is, on a night when we caught a glimpse of just how good this new-look Thunder squad might be, we were reminded that for all these different faces and heightened hopes, the most important person on this roster remains No. 35.
Seeing Durant being helped to the locker room scared everyone.
“Definitely, definitely,” Thunder newbie Nazr Mohammed said. “That's our guy.”
Just because Mohammed is one of the new guys in town doesn't mean he's unaware of the youngster's importance.
Durant is the linchpin.
He is the leader of something that could be truly spectacular. For the first time since the trade deadline, we had a chance to see just how good this bunch might be.
Mohammed was inserted into the starting lineup, and the difference was noticeable right away.
The Pacers couldn't get anything going. They went scoreless for the first four-plus minutes of the game, missing shots and throwing the ball away and looking like they had no idea what to do. They finished the first half with only 42 points.
The Thunder have given up that many points in the first quarter a couple times this season.
Granted, this is Indiana, not San Antonio or Dallas, Boston or Miami.
Still, the Pacers would be a playoff team if the regular season ended today. Indiana holds the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference right now.
The Pacers looked nothing like a playoff team Wednesday night. Miserable might better describe their appearance.
You might say they looked effervescent.
“Our defense was solid; that's what made it fun,” Durant said. “Our defense sparked our offense. We got a lot of fast-break points, scored a lot off their turnovers.”
Mohammed said, “Once Perk gets back, it's going to be even tougher down there in the post.”
Having Perkins healthy and in the lineup will be huge. Having Mohammed even more comfortable on the court will be significant.
But nothing is more important than Durant.
That ankle sprain doesn't seem like it's going to be all that serious, but on a night when we saw how good things might be for the Thunder, we were also reminded of how quickly they can go bad.