When the San Antonio Spurs became unraveled in Wednesday's second half and Oklahoma City advanced to the NBA Finals, the Thunder's victory echoed all the way to Utah.
This sobering bit of reality hit home: The Jazz will be dealing with these guys in the Midwest Division for a long, long time.
My theory that the Jazz should be comforted by the Spurs' continued rampage through the NBA playoffs was dismissed by the Thunder during one of the most impressive four-game sequences in recent history.
After losing the first two games of the Western Conference finals, Oklahoma City righted itself and made the Spurs appear human, in ways the Jazz never could.
The Spurs' offense that appeared so efficient, so unstoppable against the Jazz and the Los Angeles Clippers through two rounds of the playoffs became horribly disjointed. San Antonio lost a 15-point halftime lead in Game 6 and completely fell apart in the end of a 107-99 defeat, missing a flurry of wild shots and then allowing Kendrick Perkins' dunk in an obvious fouling situation in the final minute.
Oklahoma City outscored San Antonio 59-36 in the second half. Nobody who witnessed the Spurs' dissection of the Jazz would have imagined that kind of performance, or wanted to believe it could happen.
Thunder forward Kevin Durant played brilliantly with 34 points and 14 rebounds and the Spurs wore down, appearing old as opposed to looking like their old selves. Oklahoma City had a lot to do with that.
Somehow, you just knew Derek Fisher would have something to say about these proceedings. Regardless of how anyone around here feels about Fisher's departure from the Jazz five years ago, any bitterness that remains should be replaced by admiration today. In March, Fisher was traded by the Los Angeles Lakers, discarded by Houston and signed by Oklahoma City, which recognized the leadership he could provide at age 37.
Fisher delivered in the last five minutes of Game 6, hitting a 3-pointer from the left corner and a bank shot from the right side when the Thunder were holding narrow leads. Oklahoma City would have not won without him Wednesday.
So after having eliminated the Jazz in three straight postseasons after joining the Lakers, Fisher did not directly hurt the Jazz this spring. Indirectly, yes. The Spurs' exit marks the first time since the Jazz's return to the playoffs in 2007 that the team that beat them failed to advance to the NBA Finals Â and three of those previous four teams won championships, including two of Fisher's Lakers teams.
And the Spurs' demise has to change the way we view the state of the Jazz in the West, doesn't it? The Jazz were not close to San Antonio, and now Oklahoma City appears to be in an even different league.
Fisher won't play forever, but Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Thunder's core will remain in place for a while. That can only mean the Jazz have a long way to go if they aspire to compete at this level.
Realistically, it will require a gradual climb. Immediate help is not likely forthcoming, with the Jazz not owning a first-round draft pick in 2012. The opportunity remains for the Jazz to trade their way into the first round and make June more interesting.
But as of this moment, the Jazz are getting worse without playing, and they're not positioned to improve much between now and next season. We're left with the recognition that the Thunder overcame the team that overwhelmed the Jazz. That's not a satisfying equation, any way you look at it.