OKLAHOMA CITY —
Kevin Durant paced himself for three quarters. Even though it was the biggest game of his career, the Oklahoma City all-star didn’t try to do too much early on in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
But, as he has done the entire regular season and playoffs, the 3-time scoring champ chose to erupt in the fourth quarter and lead the Thunder to a 105-94 win over Miami at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Durant scored 16 of his game-high 36 in the final period. It was the type of performance expected from a league MVP, except it came from the runner-up.
In one sequence in the fourth, Durant displayed an array of skills that helped seal the game. With 1:17 he came up with an assist to Nick Collision to give Oklahoma City a 99-92. On the Heat’s possession, Chris Bosh missed a 3-pointer and Durant grabbed the rebound. He was then fouled and knocked in both free throws to put the Thunder over the century mark at 101-92 and close out Miami.
“I was just playing off my teammates,” Durant said. “Just taking what the defense was giving.”
Durant wasn’t alone. While he was waiting to get heated up, Russell Westbrook carried the team and picked his spots in the fourth to hit the Heat. The two stars combined for 63 points, 16 rebounds and 15 assists. They committed only four turnovers for the entire game.
“I thought we showed a lot of toughness in that second half,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “Really battling and fighting for every possession. I give our guys a lot of credit. They did a great job of competing in the second half. “
LeBron James paced Miami with 30 points, nine rebounds and four assists. Dwayne Wade added 19 points.
“We felt we had an opportunity in the fourth,” Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said. “And they just went away. They beat us at their game.”
As expected, the Thunder came out too excited. Their shots were long and the passes were all over the court.
Miami, on the other hand, looked like a team that had been in the same situation the season before. It had a 29-22 advantage heading into the second quarter.
However, it was the Shane Battier show early on. The veteran Miami forward was hitting from long range and playing smothering defense on Durant.|
It looked like the Heat were on the verge of pushing the lead to 20 before Fisher settled Oklahoma City down. He made consecutive baskets and came up with a steal.
Despite Durant being almost invisible in the first half, the Thunder only trailed 54-47 at halftime.
The third quarter Oklahoma City opened up on fire. They stormed back to tie the game at 60-60 behind an aggressive Thabo Sefolosha. That included a behind the back, no-look pass to Westbrook for a dunk.
The Thunder stopped settling for jump shots and took a page out of Miami’s playbook. Westbrook and Durant attacked the rim whenever they had the chance.
It was a Westbrook drive and foul that led to a 3-pointer right before the end of the third quarter. It gave Oklahoma City its first lead of the night at 74-73.
The momentum carried over into the fourth as the Thunder stayed on the attack, controlling the boards and forcing the Heat into contested jumpshots.
The Oklahoma City big men made Bosh a non-factor the entire night. Coming off the bench he was never able to make an impact.
“There is a difference between guarding the guy and making the guy feel you,” Brooks said. “In the second half we were making the guys feel us.”
Michael Kinney 366-3537 firstname.lastname@example.org