Thunder fans started heading to the exits midway through the fourth quarter.
They almost missed the most amazing of comebacks, but hey, who could blame them for heading out early?
This was not a fun night in Loud City.
Grizzlies 88, Thunder 84.
After an unceremonious end to this glorious season — four consecutive losses after a 60-win regular season — you have every right to be down in the dumps, Thunder fans. Sulk. Lament.
But don't despair.
His team isn't broken. It doesn't need a major overhaul. It doesn't need an offseason of change.
It just needs Russell Westbrook to heal.
I know that sounds simplistic, but if the All-Star point guard would've been on the court instead of in a suite Wednesday night, this series wouldn't be over.
Well, unless the Thunder would've won it.
Just look at how close the Thunder's losses in this series were. Six points in Games 2, 3 and 4. Four points in Game 5.
Think Westbrook could've done enough to make up those deficits?
Yeah, so do I.
“Every game had a chance to go to the other team,” Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins said.
This was going to be a hard-fought series before Westbrook got hurt, and even without him, the Thunder made a series out of it.
“I thought we did a great job of competing,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “We didn't have a lot of shots fall in. We didn't keep our head down and stop competing. That's what our team is built on.
“We gave ourselves a chance to win every game.”
Now, were there some warts in this series?
Brooks is going to draw criticism. That's fine. The man gets paid handsomely to coach these guys. He deserves to face the scrutiny.
Was he perfect?
Of course not.
There were times when the Thunder offense was haltingly stagnant. Lots of standing around. Little movement except for Kevin Durant waving his hand around calling for the ball.
But he pushed a lot of different buttons after Westbrook's injury. He tried to find answers, tinkering with lineups and fiddling with assignments.
That included playing less and less Kendrick Perkins.
Some Thunder fans are bound to say that Brooks waited too long to make that adjustment. The Amnesty Perk Movement is surely gathering steam after this series.
This was supposed to be a matchup made for the Big Scowl. Hand-to-hand combat. Bear wrestling. All of it fits in his wheelhouse.
But Wednesday night, even with Nick Collison in foul trouble, Perk played a series-low 16 minutes. He had more turnovers (three) than points (two). That was the case in two of the five games in this series, and the other three games weren't much better.
But Thunder fans, you can stop with the amnesty talk. The Thunder isn't going to do that.
Ain't gonna happen.
If the Thunder amnesties Perk, it would still have to pay his salary but would get nothing in return. That's not a trade off this franchise is willing to make.
Could it trade Perk?
Though that might not be advisable. The 11 minutes that Perk was on the court in the first half Wednesday night, the Grizzlies scored only two second-chance points. The other 13 minutes? They scored seven second-chance points.
No doubt that Wednesday night was a tough end to a tough couple weeks for this team, but it's no reason to think this bunch is broken. Yes, they broke down in the end, but they don't need an offseason overhaul.
If anything, this stretch might be a defining time for this franchise. It might build resolve and toughness that makes this team better in the end.
“Down the line, we're going to look back at this and really appreciate it,” Durant said of this rough patch. “Sometimes you've gotta ride out the storms to get to the sunshine.”
Don't despair, Thunder fans. Westbrook will come back, and so will your team.