On May 12th, 2016, the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the San Antonio Spurs to advance to the Western Conference Finals for the fourth time in six years. And then they never won another playoff series again.
Kevin Durant had 37 points and nine rebounds and Russell Westbrook had 28 points and 12 assists. It was an incredible performance by Durant and Westbrook as OKC beat a 67-win Spurs team that finished second in the Western Conference behind the 73-win Golden State Warriors. Tim Duncan had 19 points and five rebounds in what ended up being his final game.
The Thunder went on to win three of the first four games of the Western Conference Finals against the Warriors. Or, as we call it these days, "a 3-1 lead." In Game 5 in Oracle Arena, Durant went for 40. Westbrook had 31 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds and 5 steals. OKC lost by nine.
In Game 6 the Thunder took a lead into the fourth quarter and Klay Thompson happened. The Thunder never quite recovered and Golden State won Game 7 before blowing a 3-1 lead of their own a couple weeks later.
By the time the next season rolled around, Durant signed with the Warriors. Golden State went on to win the next two Finals and lose to the Raptors in a third. Meanwhile, Westbrook would average a triple-double in three consecutive seasons while the team suffered first round exits. By the time he was traded to Houston for Chris Paul, Durant was a distant memory.
When the 2019-2020 NBA season paused, the Thunder were four games out of the No. 2 seed and 1.5 games from falling to seventh in the Western Conference. Perhaps they were never meant to finish another season where they had a good chance of winning a playoff series.