UPDATE: The Thunder won't leave Miami until noon Friday, John Rohde reports. The team will arrive in Oklahoma City between 1:30-2 p.m.
The Thunder may flip momentum on Thursday night, snatching back home-court advantage with a series-altering win.
Or the talented young team may falter for the fourth straight game, closing out its banner season on a solemn and disappointing note.
The only certainty regarding Thursday night's Game 5 is the postgame reaction coming early Friday morning, when a fatigued group of players, coaches and personnel descend upon Will Rogers Airport, returning to Oklahoma City after a weeklong road trip to Miami.
No matter the time, weather or result, Thunder fans will be waiting.
“It shows you the support we have,” guard James Harden said. “Win, lose or draw, they're there, supporting us regardless and it's been there for a couple years, as long as I've been here. It shows the support they have for us and the love they have for us.”
It began on April 3, 2010, following a return trip from Dallas, where the Thunder had just clinched its first playoff berth since the franchise moved to Oklahoma City.
Daily Thunder blogger Royce Young spawned the idea, along with help from some of his readers, and he got the message out there.
A few hundred fans showed up at the airport, showing support for their beloved team.
From there, the event took off, transforming into a playoff tradition, with an expanding number of fans welcoming players back from every postseason road trip.
“In the fourth quarter, people will already start tweeting at me, ‘Hey, airport time? You got a time?'” Young said. “People are dying to know. And it's really become this kind of tradition of welcoming the team back to Oklahoma. It's become a cool thing.”
Even after last season's disappointing 100-96 loss in Dallas, which capped a 4-1 Western Conference Finals series loss to the eventual champs, fans flocked like never before.