Through two quarters in Game 4, Kevin Durant sat on eight points. He had attempted just four shots.
Kendrick Perkins had twice as many attempts as the reigning three-time scoring champ.
Some saw it as a malfunction of the Thunder's offense.
Really, it was a moment in which the mounting maturity of both Durant and the Thunder was revealing itself.
With his 18-point, fourth-quarter scoring barrage — which included 16 straight for his team during a five-minute stretch — Durant on Saturday enhanced his status as one of the league's best closers. But what he did through three quarters, dishing out six of his game-high eight assists, is what represented the next step in his evolution as a clutch performer.
“His ability to make shots under pressure is great,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “But I like the fact this year he's really stepped up on making plays and making the right play.”
There was a time when Durant's clutch gene was in question. Nobody seems to remember those days now that Durant has a growing number of game-winners under his belt. A seemingly equal amount of sensational fourth quarters like Saturday's perhaps has pushed Durant over the top as the game's greatest closer.
But remember the first three quarters of Game 4.
Those 36 minutes were a reflection of how Durant has learned to let the game come to him. At no point did Durant play recklessly while forcing the issue. Instead, he trusted his teammates throughout, playing unselfishly and turning the Thunder into a more frightening nightmare through precise passes that made everyone else a threat.
“There are times when I need to pass to my teammates and times when I need to score,” Durant said.
Durant's dominant fourth quarter in Game 4 was a byproduct of that understanding. He manipulated the Spurs so masterfully that his first half went overlooked and underappreciated. By helping his teammates early, Durant later benefited from how the Spurs defense no longer could key on only him.
Durant set 'em up and then knocked 'em down.
“I'm not where I want to be, but I'm going to keep growing in those situations,” Durant said. “I think those tough times are going to help me get better.”
The truth is those tough times are what got Durant to this point.
They started when, as a rookie in Seattle, Durant stepped onto a Sonics squad that had traded stars Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis shortly after Durant was drafted. Most thought management was sabotaging the franchise. The front office, though, was expressing its belief in Durant, showing faith in his potential as a player as well as confidence in his character.
Durant, keep in mind, was just 19 then. It was a tough role to take on for the teenager. But the team, which has never been shortsighted regarding player development, was committed to Durant as the No. 1 option. When Allen and Lewis were both dealt, Durant was put on the path to get to this very position at which he stands tall today.
Those early days, though, weren't pretty.
“His first year, he was (down) on the floor a lot,” said Brooks, an assistant then. “He wasn't backing down, but he didn't have the strength to finish and he didn't have the strength to get to his spots. People were knocking him around. But we just told him keep getting up, keep doing your work on and off the court and he has. Very rarely now do you see him on the floor.”
Brooks now says Durant is stronger, tougher. Mentally and physically.
That's courtesy of all the on-the-job training Oklahoma City got to see in Durant's second, third and fourth seasons. All the missed game-winners, some of them air-balls. All the disappointing fourth quarters, some of them scoreless frames.
Only now are we beginning to see the best of what the payoff has to offer.
The fourth quarter of Game 4 was Durant's time, and he seized the moment.
It might just go down as the coronation of Durant as King Closer.