NEW ORLEANS — The scene used to be so sweet.
That silky-smooth jumper. That roar from the crowd. That thrill of victory.
Four years later, Oklahoma got a taste of how bitter it is being on the other side.
This is what it feels like when David West delivers — wearing the wrong uniform and representing the opposing city.
West knocked down a game-winning, 19-foot fadeaway with five-tenths of a second remaining Monday night to lift the Hornets to a 91-89 win over the Thunder inside New Orleans Arena.
The clutch shot extended the Hornets' league-best winning streak to nine games while evoking memories of how West used to supply such plays in Oklahoma City, where the Hornets temporarily relocated from 2005-07 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
“When we got back in the locker room, that's the first thing (Chris Paul) mentioned was the number of them that we had in Oklahoma,” West said. “I'm pretty confident in that situation; just trying to make a play at the end of the game.”
Not that Oklahoma's NBA fans needed a reminder.
West thrilled the then-Ford Center with three last-second shots for game-winners during the 2005-06 season, sending Washington, Milwaukee and Houston off the court with slumped shoulders.
This time, it was the Thunder. And you could see it coming the moment West caught the ball with just less than 10 seconds remaining. As West worked from the right wing, he threaded the ball through his legs twice. He glanced up at the game clock. He counted down the final ticks in his head.
Serge Ibaka didn't stand a chance.
“That's just like stuff you used to do when you're young,” West said. “You count down in your head; 5, 4, 3, 2 … You got to let it go at two to give yourself a chance.”
West finished with 20 points on 10 of 18 shooting after being limited to just 2 minutes, 47 seconds in the first quarter behind two quick fouls. He was again a pest for the Thunder from the moment he returned in the second quarter.
“That's what good players do,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “They make contested shots. And we cannot do much else than what we did. Serge was right there with his hand in his face and did not give him any room to drive.”
Two nights earlier, it was the Thunder celebrating a game-winner. Kevin Durant drilled a 3-pointer from the right wing to lift the Thunder to a 101-98 win over New York. But Durant was far from dialed in Monday, going scoreless in the fourth quarter and missing all five of his shot attempts.
“In that fourth quarter, we got some unbelievable looks,” Durant said. “You saw shots go in and out the basket. The ball just wasn't falling our way.”
For a moment, it appeared the Thunder was headed for more magic.
Ibaka rebounded a missed jump shot by Hornets guard Marcus Thornton with 16.9 seconds remaining, leading to a Thunder timeout with 14.4 seconds left to play. Forward Jeff Green inbounded the ball to Nick Collison, but Paul, the league's leader in steals per game with 2.67, picked Collison's pocket. As Paul raced the other way, he was fouled from behind by Collison with 9.7 seconds left, setting up a side out-of-bounds play that led to the final sequence.
“I would have liked to have seen that play executed, and we get the last shot,” Brooks said. “And if we miss it, we go to overtime.”
The Thunder had one last chance to tie or win the game, but Thabo Sefolosha's inbounds pass sailed over Ibaka's head and trickled out of bounds. Sefolosha said the first option was a lob pass toward the rim for Russell Westbrook. But as a five-second count neared, Sefolosha scrambled to get the ball to a teammate.
Confetti rained down from the rafters, and a one-time friend to Oklahoma had just stuck a fork in the state's new team.
Afterward, West felt no remorse for what he'd done to the fans that not long ago cheered him so feverishly.
“It's the game, man. You got to win,” West said.