With 30 seconds left, the noise level, long past loud, also left roar in its wake. Jet engines just wish they could crescendo like this.
The NBA Finals are coming to Oklahoma City, and Chesapeake Energy Arena, which has busted its share of eardrums, thundered.
Down 2-0 in the series, down 18 points in the first quarter, down 15 points at halftime, the Thunder continued to write a remarkable story. The Thunder rallied to beat the San Antonio Spurs 107-99 Wednesday night to win the Western Conference Finals.
A city that seven years ago didn't even have a pipedream of being an NBA port now is on the league's grandest stage.
With streamers falling and the crowd still yelling, Thunder chairman Clay Bennett told the fans and a national television audience, “All I can think of is how this incredible group of young men has unified this city and this state.”
And even the Spurs took notice.
The Spurs' Gregg Popovich, with four championships one of the most successful coaches in NBA history, didn't lament missed opportunity. He lauded what the Thunder has done in four short seasons in OKC.
“Great, great stuff,” Popovich said. “As sad and disappointed as we are, you really have to think about it's almost like a Hollywood script for OKC in a sense.”
The Thunder, which arrived from Seattle in July 2008 and got off to a 3-29 start that ensuing season, now not only will play in the NBA Finals, but will have homecourt advantage. The Thunder hosts the Boston Celtics or the Miami Heat in Game 1 Tuesday night.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks thanked ownership. “When we were 3-29, they still treated us like champions,” Brooks said.
General manager Sam Presti, who put together this team through draft picks and trades, said, “We've got a special group of people.” And he didn't mean just the people drawing a Thunder paycheck. “The fans in this arena represent an entire state.”
And the fans helped in this one.
The Thunder, which lost the first two games of the series, won three straight and returned to OKC with a chance to close out the Spurs.
But San Antonio made 14 of its first 20 shots and took a 34-16 lead. The Thunder was within 63-48 at halftime only because Kevin Durant muscled in a well-guarded 3-pointer just before the second-quarter buzzer.
Then came a third quarter that will be long remembered in OKC. The Thunder made 12 of its first 17 shots after halftime and caught the Spurs before quarter's end, fittingly on Durant's 3-pointer with 1:40 left in the period.
“Toughest game we've played since I've been here,” Durant said. “I'm glad we got this one for Oklahoma City.”