Streamers fell from the rafters, and it was only fitting that something so soft and light crowned the guys in Thunder white. They had spent much of Wednesday night lugging around the weight of the world.
In the previous 48 hours, hope and faith and even expectations had given way to arrival. The NBA world, not to mention our glorious red-dirt corner of Planet Earth, had coroneted the Thunder. The Thunder's time was now. Future and present all combined.
That's a massive burden for young psyches.
And the Thunder played like it. Tony Parker kept floating in shots and making passes to open teammates, and the San Antonio lead kept growing, and murmurs spread throughout Chesapeake Energy Arena.
What was supposed to be a magic night was going all horror show. The youthful Thunder was showing its age.
And then the youthful Thunder showed its age. Strong legs and an unfettered spirit. A belief in a coach and a system and an organization.
The Thunder beat the Spurs 107-99 to win the Western Conference Finals. By game's end, all those great expectations had been shoveled from the Thunder's back to the Thunder's heart.
The Thunder embraced the moment that threatened to slay it.
“We started off a little slow,” Russell Westbrook said. “But guys stayed with it.”
No kidding. Down 34-18 in the first quarter and 63-45 before Kevin Durant's halftime buzzer beater, the Thunder roared with a third quarter that showed those coronation angles were spot on.
Durant and Westbrook played like the all-stars they are. The Thunder defense hounded San Antonio stars Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili into an awful (six of 20 shooting) half. The Thunder made the big shots down the stretch.
The Boomers didn't shirk the expectations. They embraced them.
Scotty Brooks' halftime speech didn't focus on defending the pick-and-roll or staying in front of the Spurs' magicians, though no one could have blamed him if it had.
“It had everything to do with who we are as men,” Brooks said. “Who we are as a team, the type of spirit that we want to show every time down the court.”
Strange game. It didn't turn. I defy someone to give me a turning point. Other than halftime. The Thunder just staged a 24-minute assault.
OKC wiped out the Spurs' lead before quarter's end, then won going away.
Westbrook was great and Durant was better. Southpaws James Harden and Derek Fisher nailed back-breaking 3-pointers in the final moments.
But the telling possession came with a minute left, and the Spurs within striking distance, 103-99.
Some guy behind me had been yelling, “Why is Kendrick Perkins in the game!” Then Perk answered the question. He blocked a shot from Tim Duncan, still a force at age 36. Then Stephen Jackson, who at that had launched eight 3-pointers, making six and getting fouled on the other two for a 23-point night, finally missed. And Parker, his legs gone, missed, too.
Durant passed to Perk for a dunk that exploded the noise to Oklahoma City decibel records and brought the streamers down.
And the expectations up.
Looks like these guys can handle it.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.