Kenyon Martin flashed down the right side of the floor, the ball in his hands, a clear path to the basket in his sights.
A late-game double-digit lead for the Nuggets seemed sure. A return to Denver for a nail-biting, heart-pounding Game 6 seemed likely.
Serge Ibaka would have none of it.
The Thunder shot swatter swooped in and batted Martin's shot into the luxury seats.
A few seconds later, Ibaka blocked another shot, this one from Nene
The sequence changed the game.
Ended the series, too.
“We love Serge,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “Our guys get excited about what he does.”
Then the boys in blue must've been really pumped Wednesday night. On a night the Thunder wrapped up its first series win since the franchise moved to Oklahoma City, Ibaka blocked nine shots.
In a preseason game, that'd be great.
In a mid-season game, that'd be amazing.
But in the playoffs?
“Serge was unbelievable,” Thunder veteran big man Nazr Mohammed said. “Nine blocks?”
Yes, nine blocks.
“All nine of them were huge for us,” Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha said. “We feed off of that.”
They clearly did Wednesday night.
After Ibaka's back-to-back blocks on Martin and Nene, something caught fire in the Thunder. Kevin Durant scored three of his awe-inspiring 41 points on the very next possession. It would be the start of an 18-6 run to end the game, and Durant would score 14 of those points.
But those blocks affected the Nuggets just as much as the Thunder.
On Denver's next offensive possession, Nene went to the hole for a dunk but lost it on his way to the rim. Frustration showed on his face.
The Nuggets lost their cool for just a few moments, but it was enough to give the Thunder an opportunity.
OKC pounced on it.
The Thunder made every hustle play down the stretch, getting to loose balls and making little plays that made a huge difference.
“We needed it,” Thunder guard James Harden said of the hustle. “We needed every loose ball, everything down the stretch. They had a big lead on us, and we just laid it out on the court.”
No one sacrificed more than Ibaka.
“Our team is about work, and Serge is a worker,” Brooks said. “He works every day. He doesn't want anything, and he wouldn't take it. He wants to earn it.
“He is as happy as anybody; he had one point.”
That's right. Ibaka scored only one point, a second-half free throw. Only two games ago, he was the offensive star. Wednesday night, he was barely got into the scoring column.
He didn't seem to mind.
When Denver's last desperation shot bounded off the rim and the final buzzer sounded, Ibaka bounded onto the Oklahoma City Arena court. He leapt across the hardwood. He soaked in the emotion.
As the confetti dropped and the cheers reverberated, Ibaka skipped back across the hardwood. He hugged teammates. He high-fived coaches.
The ear-to-ear smile never left his face.