Of course, the Thunder had a chance to wither, too. The Spurs wiped out a 14-point deficit and took a six-point lead midway through the third quarter. This one could have gone blowout the other way.
But Kevin Durant stabilized things with a couple of baskets, then the Thunder started pulling away.
“There are times in this game where we could have folded,” Harden said. “But we … stick together and stuck with it. These guys have grown. We have all grown and come together, and that is what makes us so special.”
Well, that, and having all-stars Durant and Westbrook on the floor yet still finding comfort in placing the ball in Harden's hands with the season on the line.
Don't worry. The Thunder wanted to get the ball to Durant on the fateful play. Scotty Brooks isn't stupid. But the Spurs have defended Durant fiercely all series and did so down the stretch Monday night.
So Harden had to take the reins. He's capable, of course. Harden had 11 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter.
“I had to make a play,” Harden said. “I think Kawhi was playing very good defense on me, and I just had to make a shot. I just went back to my mechanics and shot the ball with confidence, and it went in.”
The ball went in, the air went out of the San Antonio coliseum and the fortunes of the NBA's Western Conference turned, maybe for a very long time.
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.