The Thunder has to match that. The Thunder was physical against Dallas and the Lakers and San Antone, but the physicality rises in the Finals, which is part artistic beauty but also part prize fighting.
A game like this should gnaw at the Thunder. Should remind the Boomers during the short offseason of what it takes to be a champion, and how they fell shy.
“I'm going to find the positives and the negatives,” Durant said. “It was tough losing the Finals. We got to the Finals, had a tough road to get here. But we've just got to move past it, I guess. It's going to hurt for a little bit.”
That hurt will help. If the Thunder had lost Game 5 the way it lost Games 2, 3 and 4, if a tying shot in the final minute had rimmed out, the Thunder could truthfully say it was this close to the crown.
Thunder fans could scream about the officiating, analysts could find the particular substitutions that swayed a game here or there and Brooks could point to a pass or a shot or a rebound that was the only difference between the Heat and the Thunder.
But not now. A wipeout like this lets the Thunder know hard work remains.
Wade bumped into Durant and Westbrook as they left the press conference podium and said he told them, “Man, hopefully we'll see y'all next year again.”
But Wade warned: “One thing I've learned, nothing is promised. You have to seize every moment.”
The Heat lost the 2011 Finals, and LeBron, in the catacombs of American Airlines Arena on Thursday night, called it the “best thing that happened to me last year, and me playing the way I played. Because basically I got back to the basics. It humbled me.”
That's the word. This game humbled the Thunder. It's a fairly humble bunch to begin with. A game like this will make the Thunder hungrier to return.
Thanks, Miami. Oklahoma City owes you one.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.