With 4.8 seconds left in the second quarter Sunday night and the Thunder about to close out the first half with a 14-1 run against Houston, former OKC guard James Harden took the in-bound pass, dribbled the length of the court and converted a layup with 0.3 seconds left against his former teammates.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks was livid.
He spun around and appeared ready to slap the padding atop the nearby scorer's table in disgust.
The normally calm Brooks was quickly able to recompose himself, perhaps after realizing his team was still leading by 13 points (60-47).
By the end of the third quarter, OKC had built its lead to 23 (89-66).
With 3:50 left in the game and nothing but inexperience playing on the court, the Thunder's advantage peaked at 35 (115-80).
OKC wasn't perfect throughout its 120-91 victory over the Rockets in Game 1, but there were times the performance sure didn't seem to be lacking much.
Thunder players and coaches are well-aware Sunday's triumph counts as just one victory in the best-of-7 series; that no points carry-over to Game 2 at 6 p.m. on Wednesday at Chesapeake Energy Arena; that the NBA playoffs essentially are match play in golf, where all that matters is forgetting about the last hole and winning the next one.
OKC did plenty right before a national television audience on TNT and an appreciative sellout crowd of 18,203 on Sunday night, but it didn't do everything right.
So how reasonable is it for a coach to expect or demand the same kind of performance the next game and beyond?
“We just have to ask in a different way,” Brooks deadpanned with a smile. “You can't be as direct.”
Asked how he planned to ask his players, Brooks playfully responded, “Um, ‘please?' ”
Brooks well knows his team will not shoot 60.3 percent from the field as it did in the final three quarters of Game 1. Nor will Houston — the No. 2 team in scoring at 106.0 in the regular season — misfire at 36.3 percent from the field and 22.2 percent from 3-point range as it did Sunday. Nor will the entire Rockets' starting lineup finish with two fewer assists than Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook.
Nevertheless, Brooks won't back down on his demands. “No, you have to always push the group,” Brooks said.
Veteran reserve guard Derek Fisher has now played 230 postseason games and Sunday was his 24th playoff victory by 20 or more points.
What reasonable expectations should follow such lopsided victories?
“Reasonable expectations are to ask more of yourself, ask more of the team in the sense of not believing you can just call that up again and duplicate that type of game,” the 38-year-old Fisher said after Monday's practice. “You really have to take the good and the bad of what happened and learn from it. Play Game 2 as though Game 1 never existed.”