Kevin Durant was shocked. Kendrick Perkins was angry. James Harden was disappointed.
You know those feelings, Thunder fans.
The way the boys in blue ended this season was difficult to stomach for everyone involved. A pair of blown fourth-quarter leads in back-to-back games against Dallas. A five-game ouster from the Western Conference Finals.
A playoff run that lasted the better part of six weeks came to an end so abruptly.
“Disappointed,” Harden said. “Very disappointed.
“We had a chance to go to The Finals. Not many players have that opportunity — period — in their careers. So, of course, we're disappointed.”
Is the season disappointing?
“No, not at all,” the Thunder guard said. “We had a great season.
“A great season.”
That, the Thunder did.
On this first basketball-less weekend since October, it's time to look back on this Thunder season, to reflect on the ride. It would be easy to get caught up in the frustration of this past week — and I'm not saying it should be all smiles at the way the season ended — but it's important to get some perspective.
I mean, this season began with Thunder general manager Sam Presti reminding us that the franchise was only two seasons removed from a 23-win campaign. It seemed like his way of saying that even though the Thunder had made the playoffs and pushed the Lakers to six games the season before, expectations shouldn't be pushed too high.
But it didn't take long to see that this team was going to be good. The chemistry was strong. The improvement was obvious.
The Thunder went into the All-Star Break with a 35-19 record, and you knew that a return to the playoffs was almost assured and that a division title wasn't out of the question.
Then, the Thunder blew up its lineup.
Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic, out.
Kendrick Perkins, in.
The mid-season trade looked like a good deal for the Thunder, which needed post defense and interior nastiness. Still, make no mistake, this was a gamble. New players. Different personalities. It could've derailed a good thing.
Instead, it put the Thunder on track for something even greater.
“A lot of different things happened throughout the year,” Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook said. “We did a good job of staying together as a team.”
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?