When the Los Angeles Clippers last visited Chesapeake Energy Arena, they were playing their eighth game in 11 nights and in the middle of a back-to-back-to-back stretch, all on the road.
The Thunder pounced that night and went on to win 114-91 on March 21, handing the Clippers their 11th loss in the last 18 starts.
An already warm seat got even hotter for Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro, who could be heard yelling at his team from inside the locker room.
"Vinny has lost the team," ESPN.com reported. "They don't want to play hard for him."
The Clippers had fallen to 26-20 after a 19-9 start and would lose again the following night in Chris Paul's first game at New Orleans since being traded before the season.
His team was within two games of falling out of the playoffs and Paul wasn't making any excuses. "We've got to figure it out," Paul said after the Thunder loss. "It's getting to be a little bit embarrassing."
Evidently, the Clippers have since figured it out.
Following that loss to the Hornets, the Clippers won eight of their next nine before losing 94-85 on Monday night at Memphis in what could be a first-round playoff preview between the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds in the Western Conference.
The Clippers (34-23) are in a far more stable state this time around while preparing to battle the Thunder (42-15) at 7 p.m. on Wednesday in The Peake.
Del Negro remains the coach. Paul remains a magician, single-handedly pulling more victories out of a hat than any player in recent memory. And former Oklahoma great Blake Griffin had enough energy to actually smile following Tuesday's practice.
The one thing most responsible for the Clippers' turnaround since their last visit to OKC?
"You know, to be honest a lot of it for us was rest," Griffin said. "We came here on that three-game stretch … and we were worn down. We were very worn down.
"I'm proud of the way we've played the last 10 games, even though we've lost two of them. There was a lot of talk, a lot of adversity, a lot of negative talk – not within the team but everywhere around it. So I'm proud of the way we responded to that."
This season's condensed 66-game schedule has been a grind for all teams, who have had to adjust on the fly. Although rest no doubt comes in handy, Del Negro points to a different key for his team.
"The guys have to realize that they've got to raise their level of play," Del Negro said. "We have to understand that these are almost like playoff games. Everyone's vying for position. Everyone's trying to get in the playoffs. Everyone's fighting for their lives right now and we have to have that sense of urgency, that desperation to play with like we played in the fourth quarter and get ourselves back in the game."
The Thunder and Clippers will meet for the fourth and final time this season on Monday in Staples Center.