With a one-point lead and a minute left on the clock, Steven Adams snatched at a loose ball and drew contact as he drove to the basket.
Game one of the Western Conference finals was in his hands and the Kiwi did not disappoint, shaking off some early inaccuracy to make both free throws and send the Thunder on the path to victory.
Oklahoma City this afternoon (NZT) overcame a 13-point halftime deficit to upset the record-breaking Golden State Warriors 108-102 and take early control of an intriguing series. The Thunder now lead the best-of-seven series 1-0 and, ahead of Thursday's game two, will head home Oklahoma with no worse than a road split.
Steph Curry banks it in over Steven Adams & flexes on him https://t.co/6Fqrt8tGju— The Cauldron (ICYMI) (@CauldronICYMI) May 17, 2016
Adams played a massive part in securing the stunning victory at Oracle Arena in Oakland, recording yet another double-double and belying his tender years with clutch foul shooting in the most intense of environments.
"That was huge," said All Star teammate Kevin Durant. "I knew they were going to foul him but we're confident in Steven when he goes to the free throw line."
Before the 22-year-old knocked down both free throws to give his team a three-point lead in the final minute, the Thunder had suffered a stretch of more than three minutes without scoring.
They were threatening to squander a spectacular second half that saw them roar in front by as many as eight, having allowed the fast-finishing Warriors to edge their way within striking distance.
Steven Adams looks like a man who's dealt with some allergies pic.twitter.com/HjzVDSJHZx— Dime Magazine (@DimeMag) May 17, 2016
But Adams broke the drought before Durant and Russell Westbrook finished it off to earn a hugely encouraging victory over the defending champions.
Westbrook finished with a game-high 27 points to go with 12 assists and seven steals and Durant matched MVP Stephen Curry with 26. But Adams was equally influential, grabbing 16 points and 12 rebounds while leading both teams with a plus-minus of +19 during his time on the court.
It was Adams' fourth straight double-double and his sixth in the post-season alone, matching his regular season total and exemplifying the leap the seven-footer has taken at the perfect time of the year.
He did it all after aggravating a thumb strained during the game-six victory over the Spurs in the Western Conference semifinals and suffering a blow to the face that resulted in a bloodied nose.
Adams' physicality was predictably pivotal as the Thunder eventually triumphed in the rebounding battle, an advantage the Warriors initially did well to negate.
Despite playing with a smaller lineup that saw Klay Thompson and Draymond Green take advantage of mismatches with Adams on the perimeter, the home side were initially holding their own on the glass.
The Thunder were turning over the ball too often and neither Durant nor Westbrook could buy a bucket, falling into 60-47 halftime hole. But Westbrook soon warmed up with 19 points in the third quarter alone, leaving the deficit at three heading to the fourth.
A 14-3 run then saw the Thunder grab their first advantage since the opening moments and Adams' floater lifted that lead to a seemingly secure eight points.
That's when Oklahoma City suddenly went ice cold and were left grateful for Adams' hustle play, setting aside three early misses from the charity stripe to make six in a row and help his side take early ascendancy.
Adams did cause a minor stir following the game when describing Curry and back-court mate Klay Thompson as "quick little monkeys" but he later said that phrase was lost in translation.
"It was just a poor choice of words," he told USA Today. "I wasn't thinking straight. I didn't know it was going to upset anyone, but I'm truly sorry.
"Different words...can be taken differently, depending on which country you're in. I'm assimilating, mate, still trying to figure out the boundaries. But I definitely overstepped them tonight."