All right, Thunder fans, now that the boys in blue have won the Northwest Division, it's time to make sure you're ready for the playoffs.
Here are some things you might want to consider in your postseason preparations: playoff tickets, Thunder wear, pompons, foam fingers, ear plugs.
Perhaps you've noticed, the on-court verbiage has gotten a little spicy of late.
Even though the Thunder's 112-108 division-clinching victory over the Clippers on Wednesday night was fairly tame, there has been no shortage of hair-curling, eyebrow-raising words these past couple weeks. If you sit anywhere near the Oklahoma City Arena court, you know what I'm talking about. Heck, even if you just read lips fairly well, you know what I'm talking about.
Listen, these guys have never been angels when it comes to their language, but this is a whole new level.
It's a sign of increased intensity and heightened hardiness.
That goes straight to the altar boy.
Kendrick Perkins, you'll remember, served as an altar boy when he was growing up. He wore the robe. He carried the cross. He lit the candles.
Now, the flames he throws are a bit different.
He wears a scowl, he brings a nastiness, and every now and then, he drops a verbal bomb.
Or a cluster of them.
You won't find a nicer, more unassuming guy than Perkins when he's off the court, but put him on the hardwood and you'd think he was auditioning for a Quentin Tarantino movie.
It seems to have rubbed off a bit on Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Co. There seems to be an edge about this bunch now. They can be the community ambassadors off the court. They can kiss the babies. They can shake the hands.
But on the court? Their past two games are evidence of their grit. After tanking against the Clippers in L.A., the Thunder roared back by beating the same pesky Clippers in OKC less than 24 hours after beating back the Nuggets in Denver.
Remember, if the first-round matchups play out as expected, it will be Thunder vs. Nuggets.
Perhaps you saw the sparring that went on Tuesday night between them. Everyone was getting after it, but the main event was Perkins and Nene going forehead-to-forehead. Both drew technicals, but the fact that it didn't go any further is lucky.
“That would've been ugly,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks, who also coached Nene for several years as an assistant. “That wouldn't have been a good thing to watch. I'm glad that nothing happened.”
To think, Nene isn't even the Nuggets' resident enforcer. That tough-guy role falls to Kenyon Martin, who let Lakers' fans hear about it when he scored a victory-securing putback last weekend.
Think this playoffs series is going to be intense?
The Thunder played with an edge last season in the playoffs when it pushed the Lakers to six games, but already, this team has a different vibe.
“He's a tough guy who's not a sometimes tough guy,” Brooks said. “That's the way he is. He just believes in that style of play.
“It's very authentic.”
Perkins even shows up for games with a seriousness that the Thunder hasn't had since moving to town. You almost get the feeling that the rest of the guys in the locker room don't quite know what to make of him.
A week or so ago, I was interviewing Eric Maynor before a game when Perkins arrived. The big man looked so serious, so stone-faced that the reserve guard stopped mid-sentence.
“Perk,” Maynor said, “you OK?”
He was all right. He was just dandy. He was in game mode.
Imagine how he's going to be for a playoff game.
This isn't the nice-guy Thunder anymore. You can see it. You can sense it. You can even hear it.
Be sure to bring those ear plugs.