It was a lightning-fast 9-0 run on three consecutive 3s to start the fourth quarter, and just like that the Oklahoma City Thunder had put the Indiana Pacers to bed, coasting to a seventh straight win. And it was a party on the bench.
"That's the first time I've done anything like that," Enes Kanter said. "It must be the culture of this team. It's an unbelievable feeling. I've played basketball a long time; I've never seen anything like that on a team."
During the Thunder's win streak, they've won by an average of 15.6 points, with only one game being decided by single digits. It's a return to the dominant form in which they overwhelm inferior teams with wave upon wave of talent, length and athleticism.
But there's an important footnote to it: The reigning MVP and four-time scoring champion Kevin Durant is missing again, not due back for another week or so. And the Thunder are still winning anyway. Impressively, too.
What's at the heart of the turnaround? The simple explanation is the Thunder's schedule has softened a bit, with them playing only three current playoff teams during the streak, all of them at home. Another is Russell Westbrook is playing like peak LeBron, averaging 29.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 10.1 assists in February, which includes a triple-double in only 28 minutes against the Pacers.
"He's been on a run for a while," Brooks said. "He's taken it to another level, no question."
But a more complicated one is not only did the Thunder improve their roster with a trade deadline deal, but they subtracted a piece, which has helped repair some of the tension both on and off the floor.
The new additions -- Kanter, Kyle Singler, D.J. Augustin and Steve Novak -- have fit in seamlessly, with Kanter especially impressing with two double-doubles in his first three games, plus a 15-point performance against Indiana's imposing front line on Tuesday. Kanter's jolly personality is infectious. The Turkish big man walks around everywhere with a smile, even thanking reporters after interview sessions. He even seems to have Westbrook mellowed out some, with the emotional Thunder point guard saying amazing things such as, "My bad" after a poor pass.
Something sure seems different. Scott Brooks was asked about it, and he simply said, "It's fun winning." But the new energy is unmistakable. The Thunder looked refreshed and rejuvenated, playing with a kind of excitement that's been lacking.
"The spirit," Westbrook said when asked what he sees is different. "We have great team spirit right now. Our spirit is very high and everybody wants each individual to do well. Everybody knows what the task at hand [is, and] we're just taking it one day at a time."
Westbrook's play is at the heart of it all, but the biggest area of growth for him has been in his maturation as a leader. Westbrook was once a hot-headed, moody point guard who would snap at teammates and rarely accept responsibility. He was as difficult to get along with off the floor as he often was to play with on it. Westbrook takes pride in the fact he plays angry, but now he seems to be channeling that in the right direction. Namely, at his opponent.
The only way the Thunder's recent trade deadline swap works as quickly as it has is with Westbrook taking charge to assimilate the new pieces himself. He's made it a point to look for Kanter as much as possible, constantly keeping the big man engaged. Without Durant, Westbrook has taken charge in huddles, encouraging teammates nonstop. He's grown from the kind of player who kicks over a chair and needs 10 minutes in the tunnel alone to cool down, to the one his teammates are actively looking to for guidance.
Westbrook has always been an irresistible talent, with infuriating flaws. But it appears he's tapping into his true potential: a dynamic scoring, passing point guard who can carve apart a defense any way he wants. It's as if the game has slowed down for him while he's sped up, still playing with his trademark breakneck pace.
"Just learning," Westbrook said. "I am taking what the defense gives me. There are different opportunities to take different shots and make different passes. My job is to come out and find a way to lead us. If it's scoring, it is scoring. If it is rebounding, it is rebounding. If it's passing, it is passing."
Behind Westbrook, the Thunder are surging even with Durant sidelined. They expect the MVP back in a week or so, and he'll step into a booming roster, maybe the deepest Thunder team ever. They've always had two things going for them -- No. 35 and No. 0 -- but since the trade of James Harden, they have had issues finding consistent second unit production. Reggie Jackson was that guy at times, but we all know how that turned out. So the Thunder have taken a new approach, not relying on a specific sixth man but a collection of high-level role players.
Kanter, Augustin, Singler, Dion Waiters, Nick Collison, Anthony Morrow, Mitch McGary -- when Durant and starting center Steven Adams return, the Thunder could legitimately go 11 or 12 deep. That's Spurs-ian depth, combined with two of the top five players in the world. That makes the Thunder one potentially terrifying team.
As Durant watched the game in walking boot Tuesday from the bowels of Chesapeake Energy Arena, he couldn't help but join in on the party the only way he could, tweeting out during the 9-0 run, "Load em up!!! We on a run!!! #ThunderMob." One fan couldn't help but nudge Durant with a response. With all the depth, with all the chemistry, with all the fun, why would he ever leaving something like that?
"Who said I was?" Durant responded.
With Westbrook, with Serge Ibaka and with all the new depth and weapons, why would you?