Scotty Brooks didn't want to admit it – “I saw great energy in the fourth quarter. He missed some shots.” – but clearly Durant was frustrated and tired and any other description you can muster for a guy who carried a franchise on his back for almost three weeks.
With three minutes left, the Memphis lead was 80-68.
And somehow, the Thunder still got off the mat. The next time Sam Presti or Brooks or Durant start talking about the Thunder Way or Thunder culture or some such abstraction, we might ponder the idea that they're on to something.
“They showed the heart of a champion,” Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said.
An offense that was lifeless through much of the game scored on seven straight possessions. And when Zach Randolph finally lost his touch and missed two foul shots with 11.3 seconds left and Memphis up 86-84, the Thunder had a chance.
That's when Durant missed, and finally arrived the end we knew was coming the day Westbrook was lost for the season.
And Durant spoke with wisdom at the finale.
“I have peace going through this round,” Durant said. Without Westbrook, “We really had to come together. Seen us grow as a group. We all kept our spirits up. No matter what happened to us, we kept our heads high.
“Tough to swallow right now. But looking back, we'll really appreciate this tough time. Something we gotta embrace, get better from.”
Great attitude. Think about it this way. If the Thunder could go to the wire with these Grizzlies five straight games, think of the possibilities when Westbrook is back, and he and Durant are a cool 25 years old.
“I can live with myself knowing I gave it all I had,” Durant said. “Sometimes you gotta ride out the storms to get to some sunshine.”
Truth is, there was not going to be any sunshine once Westbrook went under the knife. Not this season. The Thunder went down. But the Thunder didn't go down easy.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. 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.
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