Two minutes into the third period of Game 5, in spite of what had been a mostly difficult first half, the Thunder was in position to accomplish something dramatic -- to steal a Game 5 victory and take the NBA Finals back to Oklahoma City for a Game 6.
And if there had been a Game 6, then, of course, there was the potential for a Game 7.
Two minutes into the third period, Oklahoma City's championship aspiration remained legitimate.
It was then, however, that the Miami Heat responded with an overwhelming flurry of shot-making, defense and LeBron James.
After leading only 61-56 with 10:13 remaining in the third quarter, the Heat crushed OKC with a 34-point statement that included five 3-point baskets.
"Those guys were hot," Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant said. "They got hot at the right time."
By the end of the third quarter, Miami led 95-71.
Even before the start of the fourth, American Airlines Arena workers were perched in the building's rafters, preparing to drop celebration confetti onto the crowd of 20,003.
When time expired on Game 5 -- and on the NBA Finals and Oklahoma City's season -- the Heat was a 121-106 victor, winning the best-of-seven series four games to one and savoring the franchise's second title since 2006.
"It's unfortunate we couldn't handle all the things that they were throwing at us, but they beat us. They beat us fair and square," OKC coach Scott Brooks said. "They were the better team in this series, and like I told the guys, there's nothing to be ashamed of."
"There's no question we didn't play well tonight," Brooks added. "But you've got to give Miami a lot of credit. They were so aggressive defensively. They were challenging every dribble, they were challenging every pass and they were challenging every shot."
Oklahoma City prevailed in Game 1 of the Finals and had a chance to win in Games 2, 3 and 4, but Game 5 was a mismatch -- the Thunder's worst performance of the 20-game postseason.
"It hurts, man. It just hurts to go out like this," said Durant, who scored 32 points on Thursday. "We made it to the Finals, which was cool for us, but we didn't want to just make it there. As a whole, I'm proud of the guys and how we worked all season.
"I wouldn't want to play for anybody else. I wouldn't want to play for any other city."
After having been the regular-season MVP, James was voted the Finals MVP after recording a 26-point, 11-rebound, 13-assist triple-double in Game 5.
While the Heat was brilliant during the third quarter, Oklahoma City stumbled toward elimination. During the third, the Thunder was 8-of-23 overall from the field and 2-of-11 on 3-point attempts.
The combined third-quarter shooting of Westbrook, James Harden, Thabo Sefolosha, Serge Ibaka and Derek Fisher: 3-of-16.
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