From 2012 to 2015, the Oklahoma City Thunder played a potentially franchise altering stretch of great basketball, with a slight hiccup at the end.
The Thunder was, for lack of something other than a pun, rolling.
Fresh off a 47-19 season in which the young Thunder fell to the juggernaut that was LeBron James’ Heat, the sky seemed the limit for OKC.
In 2012-13, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook helped pave the way for a 60-22 season, the most wins in a season in the OKC era.
With coach Scott Brooks at the helm, Durant, Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, Kevin Martin and a slew of tough role players churned through the Western Conference, eventually finding themselves the No. 1 seed. Only the Miami Heat finished with more wins.
After disposing of Houston 4-2 in the first round, Oklahoma City found itself face to face with a scrappy Memphis team.
The Grizzlies took the series personally, beating OKC in just five games to advance to the Western Conference Finals.
The following season, 2013-14, featured a few additions to the squad, but overall the Thunder decided to virtually run it back. They finished just one win shy of the previous season at 59-23.
Remarkably, Durant scored 32.0 points per game through all 81 games, finishing ahead New York’s Carmelo Anthony and Miami’s James for the NBA scoring title. Durant finished with 2,593 total points, beating Anthony by a whopping 481.
Oklahoma City’s playoff run yielded better results.
Second-seeded OKC got their revenge on Memphis, dispatching the Grizz in a gritty seven game series. Durant then led blossoming OKC to a 4-2 series win over the Clippers to advance to the WCF.
Oklahoma City then ran into the powerhouse that was San Antonio, falling to the eventual NBA champions 4-2 for the second time in three years.
In the 2014-15 season, Durant played just 27 games, and Westbrook 67, missing out on the playoffs for just the second time since the inaugural season.
Oft remembered as some of the golden years, Oklahoma City’s inability to get over the hump would hurt their chances in the long run.