Kevin Durant kept stepping back — back, back, back, back, back — and drilling 3-pointers. No rattling around the rim. No bouncing off the board. Just ball after ball going like wipers on the bus. Swish, swish, swish.
That ridiculous shooting delivered not only a gold medal to the U.S. in basketball's World Championships on Sunday in Istanbul, but a warning stateside.
Durant's game can get even better. It did, right before our eyes, in the worlds.
Maybe in a few years, when Durant and his sidekick, Russell Westbrook, have 600, 700 NBA games on their legs, we won't get so fired up about their adventures in international basketball. Maybe we'll want them to spend the summers with their feet up.
But now, both awaiting their 22nd birthdays, this kind of performance on this kind of stage can only be good for the Thunder.
Durant always has seemed like one of the best shooters on the planet. Watch his form, watch his results, and you'd swear he's one of the NBA's top marksmen.
But not so, at least statistically. Durant's 3-point shooting percentages in his three years in the league: .288, .422 and .365 (when he shot 50 percent more treys than the previous year).
Good shooting these last two years, but not amazing.
Durant was amazing in Istanbul. His overall numbers: 22.8 points a game, 56 percent shooting, 46 percent 3-point shooting.
Yes, the NBA 3-point line is anywhere from 19 to 39 inches longer than the international line. Which is less relevant to Durant than most players. Durant shoots deep threes. Shoots from territory that defenders can't imagine he'll launch. Most of his Turkish 3-pointers were NBA 3-pointers.
Even more impressive for Durant, his shooting improved in the biggest games. From the quarterfinals on, Durant made 15 of 34 3-pointers. In a 70-68 pool-play squeaker over Brazil, Durant made four of six. That's 19 of 40, .475 percent, when Durant was needed most.
If Durant's NBA 3-point percentage can approach his Istanbul fortnight, he becomes close to unguardable.
Stepping into the leadership role hasn't been a problem in Durant's two Oklahoma City years. But the way Durant shouldered the load for the U.S. is another fantabulous sign for the Thunder.
Sans Durant, this U.S. team was void of firepower. No problem, with Durant on board.
In those aforementioned games from the quarters on, Durant averaged 33.0 points a game. Toss in the Brazil game, and Durant averaged 31.5 in the big games, 15.8 in the others.
And by the way, the same holds true for Westbrook, who elevated his game when the stakes were high. Westbrook averaged 7.5 points and 1.8 rebounds in the first six U.S. games; in the final three, Westbrook averaged 12.3 points and 5.0 rebounds.
Westbrook missed his only two 3-point shots before the quarterfinals; he made three of five from the quarters on. Westbrook isn't ever going to be a 3-point gunner, but if he can develop a consistent 18-foot jumper, he's an all-star himself.
Westbrook never has lacked for confidence, but his belief in himself has to be soaring after Istanbul.
Thank you, World Championships. You just made this Oklahoma City NBA season even more promising.
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 AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.