This time, the standing ovation that followed the final buzzer was a different kind of spectacular. This time, the sea of navy blue shirts and white pom-poms that lingered for five good minutes and cheered and cheered was about appreciation for a different kind of success. This time, the Oklahoma City Thunder is moving on to the second round. With a 100-97 series-clinching victory in Game 5 over the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night, the Thunder is advancing to the Western Conference semifinals for the very first time. Oklahoma City will now meet the winner between San Antonio and Memphis. The Grizzlies lead the Spurs 3-2 in that series, and whichever team emerges must deal with a growing giant in the Thunder. “I think right now they're playing as good as anybody in the Western Conference,” a sullen Denver coach George Karl conceded just before heading home for summer vacation. Kicking off the celebration inside Oklahoma City Arena was Kevin Durant, the man who gave the home fans a reason to cheer. When Arron Afflalo's last-second, desperation 3-point heave fell harmlessly to the floor, Durant turned to the crowd behind the basket closest to his team's bench, put both hands on his jersey and lifted the home white to enlarge the team name that is emblazoned across the chest. In the five minutes prior, Durant had just strung together what will go down as his finest playoff performance yet. Durant scored 16 of his game-high 41 points in the final period, breaking the Nuggets' back with a series of pull-up and step-back jumpers. He turned a nine-point deficit with 3 1/2 minutes to play into an historic three-point win. “A great player got hot,” Karl said. The turning point came when Durant stepped into a pull-up 3-pointer. It splashed straight through the net. It lifted the Thunder within 91-85 and pumped life into a crowd and team that were both growing listless. “I was off balance and it went it,” Durant said. “That kind of pushed me over the top.” The final three minutes was the sort of stuff that legends are made of. After Russell Westbrook split a pair of free throws, Durant drilled another pull-up jumper that cut Denver's lead to three. Then Durant took advantage of a Nuggets double team and found James Harden all alone in the left corner for a 3-pointer that tied it at 91-all. Bit by bit, Durant began picking apart Denver. “When Harden made that three to tie it, it took away our confidence from doubling,” Karl later admitted. Kenyon Martin put the Nuggets back ahead by two on a circus tip-in with 1:31 left to play. Then Durant did what only great players do. He put his team on his back and carried it to its biggest win. “All Nate Robinson and Royal Ivey were saying was, ‘Go take the game over. It's your time.' I just tried to seize the moment and take advantage of it.” Durant grew more confident by the second. You could see his stride stretch and the pep in his step swelling. He hit a step-back jumper from the right wing over Wilson Chandler and lightly shook his head as if he knew no Nugget could guard him any longer. It tied the game at 93 with 1:21 remaining. Ten seconds after a pair of foul shots by Ty Lawson that put Denver back ahead by two, Durant hit a floater while getting fouled. He fell to the floor following the basket and flexed his muscles as hard as he could. When he stood, he sank the foul shot to give the Thunder a one-point lead. Raymond Felton made two free throws to give the Nuggets a one-point lead with 54.7 seconds left and Durant answered by working his way to the foul line at the other end. He made both foul shots to give the Thunder the lead once more. After Nuggets center Nene had a shot at the rim blocked by Serge Ibaka, Durant put the finishing touches on the win. Durant broke free from Chandler near halfcourt and took a pass from Harden with five seconds left on the shot clock. Durant took one dribble, pulled up just beyond the free-throw line and drilled a jumper over Nene that gave the Thunder a three-point cushion with 12 seconds remaining. “I made a Randy Moss cutback move,” Durant said of freeing himself for the final shot after being held and tugged out of last-second situations all series. “I didn't want him to get a hand on the basketball and maybe get a tip or have to run a seconds off and get a bad shot. So I kind of faked him one way and went the other. I used my football skills and was able to get it going.” Durant then swatted a 3-point attempt by J.R. Smith with nine seconds left, proving once again in the playoffs that he has grown into more than a one-dimensional player. Now, the Thunder has another series to show off just how far it has grown as a team. And unlike last season, when the crowd showered the Thunder with applause following a series-ending Game 6 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, the show of support that played out Wednesday night was all about magnificent feeling of marching on. “Our crowd really won the game for us,” Durant said. “They really pulled us through when we were down eight points in those final minutes.” Durant wasn't bad, either.