It was that collapse in Game 3, and that crazy, crazy contest we called Game 4 that created the perfect climate for the Thunderstorm that struck Oklahoma City Arena on Wednesday night.
The Memphis Grizzlies never stood a chance.
Oklahoma City cruised to a 99-72 cakewalk in Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead over the Grizzlies. The Thunder is now just one win away from a trip to the Western Conference Finals and a meeting with the Dallas Mavericks.
Game 6 is set for Friday night in Memphis. If necessary, Game 7 will be played back here Sunday.
“We have to play well,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “We have to do a lot of things well to beat them on their court…We're looking forward to the challenge.”
Good thing the Thunder has plenty to draw from. Stressful as it was, this is when all those experiences, all those ups and downs, that took place on the banks of the rising Mississippi River could aid the Thunder in its quest to advance.
There was no doubt that three-day trip to Tennessee triggered Wednesday's thrashing.
In Game 3 on Saturday, the Thunder blew a 13-point, fourth-quarter lead before falling, 101-93, in overtime. It was perhaps the most disheartening defeat this season. Then in Game 4 on Monday, the Thunder bounced back as it has all year long and survived a 133-123 triple-overtime thriller.
“Going through that kind of molded our character. It (brought) us closer together,” said Kevin Durant, who scored a game-high 19 points and used Wednesday's blowout to get a rare but comfortable seat on the bench for the duration of the fourth quarter.
“Losing Game 3 the way we did and winning Game 4 the way we did, it kind of showed what type of team we are. What type of courage and heart we have.”
If Games 3 and 4 proved the Thunder's tough-mindedness and team unity, Game 5 showed how these young lads learn on the fly and quickly adjust.
The Thunder's 27-point victory was a direct result of the previous two games teaching OKC how to properly close out an opponent. This time, when the Thunder entered the final period ahead by 19, it pressed the gas and walked off the court with its largest lead of the night. Falling behind 6-0 early after a horrid offensive start was no issue, either. The Thunder scrapped back from an early 8-0 hole Monday and an eventual 18-point, first-half deficit.
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