Two substantial sensations filled the Ford Center air in the final minute of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 114-105 victory over Memphis on Wednesday night.
When the first significant chants of "Beat L.A.” began in the upper deck and rained down to the court as Grizzlies forward Sam Young stood at the foul line with 35.7 seconds remaining, a defiant attitude that anything is possible emerged from the sold out crowd of 18,334.
And when the final horn sounded on the Thunder’s regular season, marking the team’s 50th win and sparking festive orange and blue confetti to fall from the rafters, a sense of pride permeated through the place.
What happens next largely will be based on those two basic emotions.
This is what it’s come down to for the Thunder, a remarkable season now reduced to four more guaranteed games of playoff basketball. Ready or not, Oklahoma City will embark on its first-ever playoff series against the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.
But judging by the season’s final tune-up, there is much more work to be done.
At times, the Thunder showed its ability to play smothering defense and complement that end with downright flawless offense. During others, Oklahoma City continued to show glimpses of the inexperience that many believe will lead to a quick ousting at the hands of the Lakers.
The Thunder led by as many as 27 points against the Grizzlies (40-42) before allowing Memphis to make a game of it by cutting the margin to six midway through the final period.
It’s those mental miscues that have mired Oklahoma City over much of the past month and turned the Thunder into potential prey for the champs. The Thunder now has at least two days, but more likely three should the series begin Sunday, to correct the mistakes.
Box score: Thunder 114, Grizzlies 105