What NBA finals jitters? Kevin Durant played in his first ever NBA Finals appearance like it was a regular season game, dropping 36 points, and a monster fourth quarter, to top LeBron James and the Miami Heat in game one.
Durant scored 17 points in the fourth quarter, helping the Thunder outscore the Heat 31-21 in final 15 minutes for the 105-94 win. James scored 30 points, adding nine rebounds, four assists and four steals. Durant and teammate Russell Westbrook outscored the entire Heat team by themselves in the second half.
“That’s what they do, they keep on coming,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told ESPN. “They’re relentless.”
The Heat came out hot to start the game, with unlikely offensive firepower provided by Shane Battier, who knocked down three three-pointers. The Heat hit five of their six three-point attempts to start the game, and lead 29-22 after the first quarter.
LeBron, while not the overwhelming presence he was in the last two games of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics, played well at the start. He helped the Heat build a 13-point lead in the second quarter while Durant took only one shot. By halftime the score was 54-47 in favor of the Heat.
The second half, however, was all Oklahoma City.
With Westbrook keying a big third quarter for the Thunder, the fourth quarter was set up for a showdown between the Durant, the NBA’s scoring champion, and James, the biggest start in the sport and one of the most recognizable athletes in the world.
The fourth quarter in the Finals has been James’ boogeyman—last year, he averaged just three points in the fourth quarter as the Heat fell to the Dallas Mavericks in six games. In this game, James played better in the final quarter, but he and his Heat teammates were not match for Durant.
Whether he was draining a big three pointer or gliding down the court for a thunderous dunk, Durant kept coming at the Heat. When the Heat fought back to within four, Durant quickly nailed two shots and got his team a 10-point lead with a little over three and a half minutes to go.
Durant’s 17 points cemented the Thunder’s first NBA finals victory. The fans all screamed “MVP! MVP! MVP!”
“They just made more plays than us,” Wade told ESPN. “They got a couple offensive rebounds that kind of hurt us. Got a couple of open shots, and from that point we were kind of playing from behind.”
The Heat are now playing from behind in the series. The next game is on Thursday night.