Kevin Durant broke loose in the fourth quarter, and there was no one on the Miami Heat team to answer back. Not LeBron James, not Dwyane Wade and not Chris Bosh. The Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Miami Heat by 18 points in the second half, taking Game 1, their first ever NBA Finals game, 105-94.
Kevin Durant finished with 36 points, the highest for an NBA Finals debutatnt since Allen Iverson in 2001, but what was more impressive were his 17 points in the final period, especially when it compared to LeBron James’ 7. James finished with the usual impressive stat line of 30 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists, but he wasn’t out of this world in the final quarter like the Heat needed him to be.
Russell Westbrook combined with Durant for 41 second half points, outscoring the Miami Heat on their own. The Heat simply didn’t have any answer for Durant, whether it was James or Shane Battier guarding the league’s top scorer. He didn’t even need screens to blow by Battier, as the Heat’s defense simply looked confused on who to guard and which lanes to close down in the second half.
Back to Westbrook, who posted 27 points, 8 rebounds and 11 assists; the first player with at least 25-8-10 since Charles Barkley in 1993. Once again, his shooting and shot making choices could have been better, but his passing on the break was fantastic and the Thunder enjoyed a good night on the offensive board, courtesy of the always under appreciated Nick Collison, who grabbed 10 rebounds (5 offensive) and even added a rare 8 points in his 21 minutes.
The Heat need to look to their head coach, who simply had no answer to the relentless Thunder in the second half. His defense collapsed, while the Heat simply couldn’t get their transition offense going. They scored only 4 points on the fast break, getting outscored on the transition. Each of their six losses in this postseason came with a bad transition offense.
The Superstar vs Superstar watch? Durant won this one. LeBron James and the Heat outplayed the home team in the first half. Shane Battier was hot, finishing with 17 points. Chris Bosh started well off the bench, but finished with 4-11 and 10 points, not getting the good looks he got early on. All the cannons and the guns wouldn’t fire in the second half for the Heat, who went back to their simplistic, easy to read offense.
James Harden was barely worth mentioning. His defense was bad and he didn’t really add anything to the Thunder’s offense. Sefolosha’s fantastic defense on James in the final quarter was good enough to overcome missing Harden’s points. After all, the Thunder reached 100 points for the 8th time in their last nine games. They’ve kept their opponents below 100 for the 11th time in this postseason.
The last time LeBron James and the Heat lost a series opener, they went on to win four straight games and claim the scalp of the 2010-2011 Chicago Bulls, despite their home advantage. Looking at how they simply couldn’t keep up with the hungry Thunder in the final minutes, that’s about the only good thing they can hang on to, trying to shake off the disappointing start to Game 1.