OKLAHOMA CITY • Kevin Durant keeps insisting these NBA Finals are Thunder against Heat, not him against LeBron James.
So far, his side is winning both matchups.
Durant delivered the fourth quarter his counterpart never could last year, scoring 17 of his 36 points and leading a Thunder storm that overwhelmed Miami and gave Oklahoma City a 105-94 victory in Game 1 on Tuesday night.
James and the Heat started well against the young Thunder, who acknowledged some first finals nerves.
They’ve already figured out finishing, Durant showing James how a superstar is supposed to play in the fourth quarter.
"Well, those guys, they came out on fire. They were passing the ball well, knocking down shots. We just wanted to continue to keep playing," Durant said. "It’s a long game, and every time our coach was just saying play harder, play harder, and that’s what we did."
Teaming with Russell Westbrook to outscore the Heat in the second half by themselves, Durant struck first in his head-to-head matchup with James, who had seven points in the final quarter and was helpless to stop the league’s three-time scoring champion.
Westbrook turned around a poor shooting start to finish with 27 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds for the Thunder, keying a strong finish to the third period that gave the Thunder the lead for good.
Durant took over from there.
Scoring in nearly every way possible, Durant finished 12 of 20 from the field and added eight rebounds. He and Westbrook outscored the Heat 41-40 over the final two periods, showing that maybe this time it will be offense that wins championships.
"That’s what they do, they keep on coming," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "They’re relentless."
James finished with 30 points, the most in any of his 11 finals games, but had only one basket over the first 8:15 of the fourth, when the Thunder seized control of a game they trailed for all but the final few seconds of the first three quarters.
James averaged just three points in the fourth quarters of the Heat’s six-game loss to Dallas last year, taking almost all the blame for Miami’s finals failure. He was good in this one, Durant was just better.
"They didn’t make many mistakes in the fourth quarter," James said.
And when fans chanted "MVP! MVP!" late in the game, they weren’t talking about James, the guy who won the regular-season award.
They meant Durant, who is in a race with James for his first ring — and maybe the title of best player in the game.
Game 2 is Thursday night in Oklahoma City.
Dwyane Wade had 19 points but shot just 7 of 19 for the Heat, while Shane Battier provided some rare offense by scoring 17 points, his high this postseason.
Turning to a small lineup late in the third quarter, the Thunder improved to 9-0 at home in the postseason. Defensive ace Thabo Sefolosha helped defend James during the Thunder’s comeback, relieving Durant of the burden so he could focus on his scoring.
And right now, nobody does it better.
Spoelstra said his team, pushed to seven games against Boston in a grueling conference finals the Heat finally won Saturday, preferred this quick turnaround. But perhaps they ran out of gas against the young Thunder, whose core players are all 23 and younger and look as if they could keep playing all night.Next Page >
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