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Kevin Durant turned on the heat to close out Miami

Jun 13, 2012, 12:23 AM EDT

Miami Heat v Oklahoma City Thunder - Game One Getty Images

Kevin Durant had a pretty quiet first half and, perhaps not surprisingly, his Oklahoma City Thunder trailed by seven points heading into halftime.

That all changed in the second half, however, as Durant dominated down the stretch to close out the Heat on his way to 36 efficient points in his first ever NBA Finals appearance. The Thunder won 105-94 and now have a 1-0 lead in the NBA finals.

The Oklahoma City defense deserves a lot of credit for sparking the second half comeback and getting the Thunder a lead, of course, but it was Durant who completely closed the door on any sort of Heat heroics. The leading scorer during this year’s NBA season might not quite have been the force that basketball fans saw LeBron James become to get Miami to this juncture, but Durant was certainly something special down the stretch.

Oklahoma City ended the third quarter with a one-point lead thanks to a pair of free-throws from Russell Westbrook and, at the time, the outcome of the contest was still very much in doubt. As soon as the fourth quarter commenced, however, Durant decided he’d show the world that the Thunder weren’t “just happy to be here,” “leery of the Finals’ limelight” or anything else that people have mentioned as reasons for picking against this young Thunder team. No, the team that has already dispatched the Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs doesn’t seem ready to settle for the “experience” of making it to the championship series — they showed, through their star player, that they’re ready to win now.

Durant came out a mix of fearless and ferocious in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 of his team’s first 17 points in the final stanza as Oklahoma City went from barely coming back by holding a contentious one-point lead to looking like the real deal as they took a 91-83 lead with less than five minutes to play via an all too easy mid-range jumper from Durant — his 13th points of the quarter. The Durantula ended up tallying 17 points in the final stanza to lead his team to the opening-game victory.

The reason your’s truly found beauty in Durant’s first game in the Finals wasn’t simply because he scored a lot of points on the big stage, though, but more due to the fact that he was willing to wait and let the game come to him rather than deciding to try and force his offense as soon as the Thunder found themselves in the deficit because, as basketball fans know, that is certainly wont to happen with a player as young as he is. The NBA’s leading scorer instead showed patience typically exhibited from players with much more experience than he has, however, and it paid off — not only for himself, but for the fans.

See, as anyone who watched Tuesday night’s game will tell you, the way Durant did his damage — using his phenomenal length to finish over Shane Battier at the rim, showing superb touch from beyond the three-point arc or hitting the mid-range jumper that was once thought to be a lost art in today’s game — was nearly as impressive as everything surrounding his impressive performance: in his first game of the NBA Finals, against the league’s MVP, in the clutch moments of the game and with not one bit of evidence that he was trying to do too much on the offensive end … no, he was just doing what it took to help his team pick up an all-important win.

It might not have been one for the history books considering it was only Game 1 of what could absolutely end up being a seven-game series, but Durant showed on Tuesday night that he’s ready, willing and able to take the game over if necessary. Now we just have to wait to see how Miami responds.

  1. chargerdillon - Jun 13, 2012 at 12:29 AM

    Im sure the Heat going totally cold in the second half had nothing to do with it

    • abchome - Jun 13, 2012 at 8:45 AM

      It’s called Law of Average. eg. You don’t make 80%+ (5 of 6) 3-pointer the entire game.

  2. dgbk - Jun 13, 2012 at 12:38 AM

    neither team played their bests.harden was awful.. i am not sure if the heat play better it would matter, other than a out of this world game from wade or james.. the role players stepped up some and they controlled the game..i see why the heat want to upgrade pg chalmers gives them nothin but random 3’s here or there…..

  3. canehouse - Jun 13, 2012 at 12:41 AM

    Great game… fun to watch…. even in defeat. Thunder brought it to us in the 3rd and 4th… congrats to the okc fans, they certainly had an impact. We will see ya on Thursday night… can’t wait!!!

  4. mydadyourmom - Jun 13, 2012 at 12:50 AM

    Kevin Durant is a superb basketball player.

  5. blacc24 - Jun 13, 2012 at 12:59 AM

    You think not being MVP is on Durant’s’ mind.

    • lyndseymarieee - Jun 13, 2012 at 1:30 AM

      No. I think the winning the Finals is on his mind.

  6. diablito0402 - Jun 13, 2012 at 12:59 AM

    Wow is that what super stars look like when they show up in the 4th quaters????

  7. blacc24 - Jun 13, 2012 at 1:05 AM

    Whats crazy is the stat line. OKC outplayed them in every category, Harden was in foul trouble and only had 5 points, and Westbrook had a bad shooting night. I see the thunder playing better. The series is gonna be on wade not Bron if Miami are gonna win a chip this year.

    • passerby23 - Jun 13, 2012 at 3:15 AM

      Miami is in a difficult position. Wade performed up to the standard he’s shown all playoffs, which is respectable but not great. Bottom line is the Heat’s bench is atrocious and the Big 3 have to do too much heavy lifting.

      When Miami was making all the 3’s in the first half and OKC was playing awful, I kept thinking “this can’t last” and I was right. Miami was exhausted by the end. What does Spoelstra do? Throw in Cole and Jones? Thunder just expose them as defensive liabilities. More Mike Miller? He’s a shell of his former self with the injuries. Joel Anthony? That takes away what little front court offense they get from Haslem and Bosh.

      The Heat can try to make some adjustments, but it’s difficult to see how you can make up having no bench and a lot of isolation play against a superior bench and more fluent offense.

  8. itsmammoth - Jun 13, 2012 at 1:20 AM

    OKC played like crap, and still made it look easy.

    Basically, if you want to beat the Thunder, you need at least 25 point lead going into the 4th quarter.

  9. scalfor3 - Jun 13, 2012 at 3:30 AM

    i’d take durant over lebron any day.

    that fourth quarter was why

  10. passerby23 - Jun 13, 2012 at 6:47 AM

    Top 10 reasons why Heat lost Game 1 and will lose this series:

    1. Sefolosha is the best individual defender Lebron will have seen all playoffs.
    2. Ibaka is the best weak side shot blocker Lebron and Wade will have seen all playoffs.
    3. They have no answer for Westbrook and have to hope he shoots himself out of a few games.
    4. Thunder’s bench is much stronger than Miami’s. Spoelstra, though, risks letting the game get out of reach by playing suspect bench players in an attempt to rest his stars so he has to play his starters more minutes further fatiguing them.
    5. Thunder’s home court is a huge advantage.
    6. Durant, Westbrook, and Harden aren’t afraid of the big moment and taking big shots.
    7. Lebron, as good as he is, still lacks confidence to take and make a quality jump shot with a hand in his face with the game on the line instead of trying to bully his way through a slew of defenders.
    8. Bosh has been reduced to spot-up 3-point specialist.
    9. The Thunder have finally figured out the way to beat Miami is to dare them to make jump shots and limit their drives to the basket. They are quick and athletic enough to recover and close out on shooters anyway when they are dialed in.
    10. All the pressure is on Miami, none on Thunder.

  11. mclayton31 - Jun 13, 2012 at 7:38 AM

    The difference between kd and lebron is simple, shooting. Kd can dunk, play defense, post up, block shots, make assists,etc. He just shoots better than lebron and I think that makes kd better.

  12. jh4prez - Jun 13, 2012 at 8:34 AM

    His skill at turning it off and saving himself for the fourth was key.spoelstra has to somehow save lebrons minutes for the fourth qtr.

  13. fanz928 - Jun 13, 2012 at 8:41 AM

    Lebron needs to guard durant only and put in more players on the rotation

    • klownboy - Jun 13, 2012 at 8:58 AM

      I agree with fanz928. I think LeBron is quick and tough enough to limit Durant’s impact. Otherwise the series will end in less than six games…

  14. lakerluver - Jun 13, 2012 at 10:53 AM

    LBJ may be quick and strong enough but KD is darn near 7 ft tall and is virtually unguardable. Sorta in the same way that Dirk is. The biggest difference in LBJ and KD is Durant is a natural scorer. Scoring comes easy for him. He’s a basketball savant. The dude can shoot from anywhere on the court AND take the ball to the hole as well. LBJ is already worn down from having to do too much. If he has to guard Durant for a whole game he will be even less effective in the 4th than he was in game 1.

  15. detroitcityryda - Jun 13, 2012 at 12:06 PM

    Nba is so predictable and not fun 95% of these playoff games the teams playing home even when losing turn it around and win it .why is it that the biggest home advantage in all sports is in the nba ? I was watching last night and I just knew it was your typical game where thunder would soar in 3rd 4th qtr and win it so I shut it off because why watch something that’s so boring and its a finals game .nba is not what it used to be .teams ,players today lack full game intensity like the players had in 90s ,today it’s play bad for two halves then play great for the other two or the other Way around .the passion and heart is just not there in this generation no wonder the sport is in decline in ratings

    • slopmcflop - Jun 13, 2012 at 12:52 PM

      is in a decline for ratings? Don’t play hard for two “halves” but turn it on for the other two? Four halves? No passion, no heart? Turned the game off when it was close going into the 4th quarter of the NBA Finals?

      Ladies and gentlemen, what I think we have here is not a NBA fan. A true fan would know that ratings are up, even after the lockout. That there are 2 halfs and 4 quarters of a basketball game. That all you have to do is look at Russell Westbrook as a case in point example of the intensity displayed during a game. That you should never turn off a game when it’s that close going into the 4th, ESPECIALLY in the Finals.

      detroitcityryda, I feel bad for you son. I’m not sure what it is you expect, but you are fooling yourself if you think last night’s game was anything but great, no matter what team you were rooting for. You can’t have a league full of Michael Jordans, which I feel is what you were hinting at with your “90s were better” comment. If you can’t appreciate the two best players on the planet fighting for that elusive first ring, trading blows and making ridiculous athletic plays, inspiring stretches of defense and all around entertaining play, then I’m not sure what else this sport can do for you.

  16. bbk1000 - Jun 13, 2012 at 1:13 PM

    Can’t help but think how the Blazers feel while watching this guy…..he is amazing…

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