OKLAHOMA CITY -- The building was still bright, but quiet and mostly empty. Kevin Durant, wearing a brown leather jacket and a smile, emerged from the tunnel and strolled onto the court.
The scene of destruction seemed so calm, so serene now.
Such a contrast to the swirling tempest of speed and energy and hunger that it had been barely an hour ago.
The epicenter of all that, the accelerant for the five-alarm fire that the Oklahoma City Thunder have set all around the defending champion Golden State Warriors, was nowhere to be found. Moments ago, Russell Westbrook had walked out of the same press conference room with Durant, and he was already gone.
Still going 150 mph downhill, long after the final buzzer.
We all saw what happened Tuesday night; the same thing that happened Sunday night, just with a different score. This time it was Thunder 118, Warriors 94. This time, for the first time all season, the Warriors didn't bounce back after a loss.
Now, they face a daunting 3-1 deficit as the series shifts to Oakland for Game 5 on Thursday night. The defending champs, the winningest regular season team in NBA history, are so out of sorts that they don't even want to watch the film of this debacle.
No need to.
"I feel like watching the film is going to be watching the same thing we watched the other day," said Draymond Green, who was at the epicenter of controversy following his kick to Steven Adams in Game 3 -- and who was absolutely dreadful again in Game 4. (Green was 1-for-7 with six turnovers and a minus-30. He's minus-73 in the last two games.)
"We've got to dig deep," Green said, "and it starts with me. ... I think it's the first time in my life that I didn't respond to critics. That's kind of been my story, and I haven't done that. So I've got to do that."
Make no mistake; the Warriors will come out with a vengeance in Game 5 on Thursday night at Oracle Arena. Their 73-win season and their bid for the immortality of back-to-back championships are in serious peril against a Thunder team that has knocked them on their heels and stolen their identity.
"Every game now," Green said, "we've got to come out swinging like our lives depend on it."
What Green was missing was this: The team that played that way in these two games in Oklahoma City was the one in the other locker room -- the one that is feeding off Westbrook's energy and brilliance like an inferno.
It would be unfair to say that Westbrook badly outplayed two-time MVP Stephen Curry in Games 3 and 4, because Westbrook was so off the rails that Curry was nowhere near him most of the time. He had 36 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists, becoming the first player since Charles Barkley in 1993 to have a 30-point triple-double against the defending champions in the playoffs.
Did we mention the four steals and five offensive rebounds? The dagger 3-pointer from the corner off a deflected pass that sealed the already forgone conclusion for good in the closing minutes? The poise and patience that he showed in the fourth quarter when he pulled the ball out and ran clock before attacking the hapless Warriors again?
The coach-on-the-floor instincts? That's right, this is Russell Westbrook I'm writing about. At one point, when the Warriors went to their small lineup, Westbrook ran one futile possession and went back the other way shaking his head and muttering, "Nah, nah, nah. Dray! Dray!" He said this to assistant coach Maurice Cheeks, who tapped Billy Donovan on the shoulder and said something into his hear -- the only way Donovan would hear it in this roiling cauldron of noise and hysteria.
"Dray!" Donovan shouted down the bench, and in came Andre Roberson to sub out Enes Kanter.
Just as Coach Westbrook wanted.
"He's got such great force and great will," Donovan, an old point guard from way back, said of his current and far more capable point guard. "He's also a really, really high-IQ basketball player. He sees a lot of things going on out there."
What's going on out there is that Westbrook is the one who is coming out swinging like his life depends on it. As a result, the Warriors' historic season is on the brink.
"I know my energy and aggression can kind of impact the game," Westbrook said. "And that's what I try to do ... try to attack the basket and use my size and my ability to get to the basket and create some havoc."
That is exactly what Westbrook has created; havoc, and a stunning predicament for the defending champs. Curry can't find any air space to launch his lethal assortment of 3-point shots because the Thunder are switching everything and showing him an 8-foot wingspan every time he thinks he's finally shaken free. Curry started 1-for-10 and finished 6-for-20, including 2-for-10 from 3-point range.
"Shot-making comes with energy," Green said. "When you've got energy and you're flying around, all of a sudden shots start going in. When you're out there moseying around, shots don't fall."
The Thunder's front line of Adams, Kanter and Serge Ibaka have rendered Green virtually useless, no matter which lineup the Warriors play. Andre Roberson had a career-high 17 points on 7-for-12 shooting with 12 rebounds and no turnovers -- a beneficiary of all the attention paid to Durant and Westbrook, as well as Donovan's clever use of him in the pick-and-roll game.
"We definitely will continue to trust him," Westbrook said. "We're going to need everybody to get where we need to get to."
They'll need everybody if they're going to have a chance to extinguish the defending champs in Game 5 on Sunday at Oracle. They'll need Westbrook racing downhill like a runaway bowling ball, picking off any All-Star, MVP or otherwise decorated defender in his path.
"I play every game like it's my last, regardless of who's in front of me," Westbrook said, invoking the old Allen Iverson line that couldn't sum him up any better. "That's my job. My job is to worry about my team and guard and run my team. And that's all I do."
In these two games that pushed the 73-win Warriors one loss away from elimination, that was more than enough.
It was 30 minutes before midnight Oklahoma City time now, and on the court, Durant dished out hugs and handshakes to friends and family sitting courtside. Earlier, his expression reveled no emotion except for a level of seriousness that was almost scary. Now, he finally allowed himself to smile.
If I played with Russell Westbrook, and could continue to do so as long as I wanted, I'd do the same.