Two years ago, in his rookie campaign, Steven Adams' season was ended when San Antonio dumped Oklahoma City out of the NBA playoffs.
Now, after today's dramatic game-five victory over the Spurs, the Thunder are one win away from advancing a step closer to their first title. And Adams' development is a big reason why.
The Kiwi centre this afternoon recorded his third double-double of the Western Conference semifinals to help his side win 95-91 in San Antonio and take a 3-2 lead in the series, setting up a chance to clinch at home on Friday afternoon (NZT).
Russell Westbrook led the Thunder with 35 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists, rallying the visitors with several key plays down the stretch and combining with Kevin Durant (23 points) to hand the Spurs their second home defeat of the series.
Adams, meanwhile, notched 12 points on five-of-eight shooting and grabbed 11 rebounds in 35 minutes on the floor, playing his usual brand of aggressive, if contentious, basketball.
The 22-year-old has in his three seasons grown into one of the NBA's elite defensive centres and his physicality helped to restrict Spurs key man LaMarcus Aldridge to a paltry six-of-21 on field goal attempts.
At the other end, Adams' ability in setting screens for the likes of Durant to shine has been noted as a key weapon in Oklahoma City's arsenal. And that ability sparked one controversial moment late in today's game, when Adams appeared to trip Danny Green and send the Spurs man stumbling into Durant, giving the Thunder a crucial foul that saw them take a two-point lead in the final minute.
"I was setting a screen and Danny ran straight into me," Adams told reporters. "I just got a piece of him and then the impact brought me back and it just so happened that he curled. And, yeah, my leg just apparently got in the way."
It was the type of play that can be viewed two ways, depending where an observer's loyalties lie, and Green was non-committal when asked whether he thought the trip was intentional.
"I don't know if it was intentional, I didn't see the replay clear enough. I just know [Adams] does a good job of setting screens for them. Sometimes the refs see, sometimes they don't, but he gives a little extra."
If Adams and the Thunder manage to see off the Spurs, they will likely set up a meeting with defending champions Golden State, whose star has been honoured with a second straight most valuable player award. Stephen Curry today became the first unanimous MVP pick in NBA history, sweeping all 131 first-place votes to go one better than Shaquille O'Neal (2000) and LeBron James (2013).