In his on-court interview with TNT immediately after the Thunder's thrilling three-point win over the Lakers on Saturday night, Russell Westbrook declared that he always knew his team would come back and win.
And why shouldn't he have been confident?
All postseason, Oklahoma City has closed out games in grand fashion. The Lakers, in Game 4, simply became the latest victim of the Thunder and its ability to storm back from a fourth-quarter deficit and secure a win.
That trait, not Westbrook's explosiveness or Kevin Durant's daggers or James Harden's surgeon-like precision in the pick-and-roll, has been the most impressive thing about the Thunder's playoff run thus far.
Oklahoma City is now all grown up.
The final five minutes of nearly every Thunder game this postseason has proved as much. Gone are the days when the Thunder would wind up on the wrong end of a blown lead. Now, it's the Thunder that is snatching victories from the jaws of defeat.
Four of the Thunder's seven playoff wins have come by three points or less. Another victory was decided by just six points. Of those five wins, the Thunder trailed by 13 points in the fourth quarter of two games, by seven in the fourth period of two others and by one with a minute remaining in the other.
The Thunder was the road team in both victories in which it trailed by 13 in the fourth quarter.
It's been quite the turnaround for a team that last year bowed out of the playoffs because it couldn't help but wither when put on the ropes. The Thunder's final two games against Dallas in the Western Conference Finals are the most telling of how far this team has come. In Games 4 and 5, the Mavs came back from fourth quarter deficits of 15 points and eight points, respectively.
But the Thunder is now emphatically showing how much it learned from last year.
“It helps when you have experience, and I think we have experience now,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “(It's) not that three years ago we didn't have a chance, but we were learning how to win games.
After stunning the Staples Center crowd Saturday and taking a 3-1 series lead, the Thunder's first chance to close out the Lakers now comes in Game 5 on Monday night inside Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Thunder is 2-0 in the Oklahoma City era in closeout opportunities at home.
If anything, the Thunder's mounting experience and confidence suggests this series won't last much longer.
“It doesn't guarantee that we're going to win the next close game,” Brooks said, “but it puts you in the position that we have something to fall back on … and say, ‘OK, this is what we do in this situation.'