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It’s the thing you don’t notice when they’re sitting at the kitchen table every day, swallowing milk by the gallon, bread by the loaf and snatching the last piece of meatloaf right out from under your nose.

Then one morning they pull on last year’s jacket and you find that those sleeves barely come down past the elbows.

Maybe it was James Harden’s bloodless 3-pointer with 28.8 seconds left to play. Or that intense, disciplined, scrambling defense that resulted in a desperate, off-balance 25-footer by Manu Ginobili at the other end. Or one of the three charges taken by Nick Collison. Or any of Kevin Durant’s ribbon of silk jumpers.

Seeing the Thunder in the crucible of Game 5 was like watching a cactus flower bloom in time-lapse photography. Suddenly nobody even noticed the thorns.

“Well, we never just thought that we were supposed to wait our turn,” Durant said. “We always wanted to go out and just take everything.”

But the truth is that it is a process and the Thunder had to climb the ladder, shimmy up the rope, find their way through the maze.

A year ago they had been here in the Western Conference finals against the Mavericks and wilted. Now that experience was like the pencil mark drawn on the wall that barely comes up to their shoulders today.

“Last year in thatDallasseries it seemed like every one of those games got away from us,” said Collison. “I don’t know the stats, but I know we had leads in a lot of those games. That’s where when things started going bad, we started losing it a little bit and made it worse. We’ve been able to kind of snap out of it and play better.

It has shown in a series whereOklahoma Cityfell behind 0-2, but didn’t fall down, where the Thunder blew a nine-point lead at the start of the fourth quarter in losing Game 1 and then found themselves clinging to the scraps of what was left of a nine-point fourth quarter lead in Game 5.