No doubt about that. The Thunder made the transition so seamlessly — ultimately adding Perkins and Serge Ibaka to the starting lineup — that you forget how difficult it could've been.
OKC surged into the playoffs, winning 19 of its last 25 games and finishing the regular season with 55 wins.
Then came a host of firsts for this bunch.
First playoff road victory.
First playoff series win.
First seven-game series.
First Game 7 victory.
First Western Conference Finals.
“We had such a good run,” Durant said. “Of course we wanted to end the season better, but we can't hang our heads at the year we had. It was successful as far as us growing and getting better as a group.
“We all wanted to get to that top of the mountain, but at the same time, we know how important it is to be patient.”
The Thunder learned so much over the past few weeks. How to handle the mind games of a coach like Denver's George Karl. How to fight back against a punch-you-in-the-mouth team like Memphis. How to dig deep at every step of the way.
Granted, this squad still has much to learn, notably how to close out games in the pressure cooker of the playoffs. But experiencing that is the first step toward figuring out what it takes.
Ditto for knowing that you never want to go out like that again.
“The crazy part about it is,” Perkins said, “I was mad for like 30 minutes (after Game 5) until we got on the plane, and then it kind of went out the window. I was like ... ‘Nobody expected OKC to be in the conference finals.'”
Perkins furrowed his brow.
“Definitely never want to settle for less,” he said, “but at the same time, it definitely wasn't a bust season.”
Was it a shocking, maddening, disappointing ending to this Thunder season?
Was it a disappointing season?