With 11.1 seconds left in Game 1 against Memphis on Sunday, Thunder sixth man Kevin Martin leaned over the scorer's table during a timeout and said, “That's a special kid right there.”
Martin was referring to three-time scoring champ Kevin Durant, who had just buried a 19-footer to give OKC a 91-90 lead.
Durant indeed was special, as was Martin.
But the biggest reason the Thunder posted a pulsating 93-91 victory over the Grizzlies was because its defense also was special.
Durant was spectacular down the stretch, making six of his team's final seven field goals and finishing with 35 points, 15 rebounds, six assists, two blocks and one steal.
And for the second time in 36 hours, the previously struggling Martin excelled with 25 points off the bench.
Martin was 7 for 13 from the field, 3 for 5 on 3-pointers, had three rebounds and three assists in the series-clinching victory against the Houston Rockets on Friday night.
Roughly 36 hours later, he shot 8 for 14 from the field, 3 for 5 on 3-pointers and added seven rebounds in a scintillating Game 1 comeback before a sellout crowd of 18,203 at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
OKC had just the right mix of Durant and Martin on offense and timely sparks provided by the defense.
With three-time All-Star Russell Westbrook sidelined after having season-ending knee surgery, many wondered how the Thunder would replace the league's sixth-leading scorer (23.2).
Somewhat forgotten was an OKC defense that ranked second in field-goal percentage defense (.425) during the regular season.
The Memphis defense was even more impressive, leading the league in scoring defense (89.1) and opponent rebounds (39.1).
Do the Grizzlies have the NBA's best defense?
“They're one of the best,” said Martin, who quickly added, “along with us. This series is going to come to defense.”
The Thunder trailed 7-0 at the game's outset, but despite missing 12 of its first 13 shots, but only trailed 7-6 thanks to its defense.
OKC ran hot and cold from the field, shooting 22.7 percent in the first quarter and 36.5 percent in the third, then countering with 57.1 percent in the second period and 58.8 percent in the fourth.
“Everybody did a good job defensively, we locked in,” coach Scott Brooks said. “Offensively, we had some good moments and we had some so-so moments.”
The game was decided in the fourth quarter when the Thunder overcame a nine-point deficit thanks to 12 points from Durant, plus six points from Martin and Derek Fisher.
Thanks also can be given to four rebounds, three assists, one steal and one blocked shot from Durant in the final period, plus two blocks from Serge Ibaka and a key steal from Fisher that directly led to Durant's shot with 11.1 seconds left. There even was a blocked shot from Martin, whose name is rarely mentioned when discussing defense.
In the final period, the Grizzlies shot just 33.3 percent and committed four of their 12 turnovers.
Did Memphis let one get away?
“No, they earned it. They earned it,” Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins said. “Every game is like that. One team has something and the other team comes back and gets it. It's part of the game of basketball. We had some plays we'd like to take back.”