Durant bests Bron; Thunder win Game 1
Oklahoma City, OK (Sports Network) - There was a dominant duo on the floor in Oklahoma City on Tuesday night, but it wasn't LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
Kevin Durant scored 17 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter and Russell Westbrook added 27 points and 11 assists, as the Thunder dominated the second half in a 105-94 victory over Miami in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
Durant and Westbrook (41 points) outscored the entire Heat team (40) in the second half, as Oklahoma City flipped a switch and raced out in transition at will.
"I thought we showed a lot of toughness in that second half. Our guys did a great job of competing in the second half," said Oklahoma City head coach Scott Brooks.
Oklahoma City also held a 43-35 rebounding edge with eight of those grabbed by Durant, who also dished out four assists in the win. Serge Ibaka scored all 10 of his points in the first half, but had a front row seat to his teammates' scoring explosion in the final 24 minutes.
James led Miami with 30 points, nine rebounds, four assists and four steals, while Wade added 19 points and eight assists. Shane Battier scored 13 of his 17 points in the first half for the Heat, who were dominated in the paint (56-40) and in transition (24-4).
"We have to get stops. We are a better defensive team than we showed tonight. They pounded us in all of the big muscle areas. They have players who are tough enough to guard individually anyway," said Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra.
This series is full of storylines highlighted by the matchup between a three- time MVP (James) and a three-time scoring champion (Durant). Each is the leader, but not the sole star on their respective outfit. Wade has already won the championship James covets, while Westbrook is at times the forgotten scoring machine cast in Durant's shadow.
Both franchises have won one NBA title with Miami's coming in 2006 and the Thunder's dating back to when the franchise was in Seattle in 1979.
It didn't take long for the Thunder to exert their force in the third, using a second wind, lively defense and ball movement to force an up-and-down tempo. Thabo Sefolosha's two free throws brought Oklahoma City within 58-57 and his layup just over a minute later tied the game at 60-60.
Miami responded and built a five-point edge at 71-66 on James' driving slam, but the Thunder finally got over the hill and took the lead with an 8-2 scoring stretch to close the quarter. Westbrook's three-point play with 16.4 ticks to go gave Oklahoma City its first lead of the game.
It carried over its momentum into the fourth with Durant's stick-back off a Westbrook miss and Sefolosha's lay-in opening a five-point lead. Miami drew within three but had no answer for Durant, who buried a three then hit a tough driving jumper for an 89-83 lead. He made another jumper and Westbrook's bucket just over one minute later pushed the margin to double digits at 93-83.
Miami narrowed the margin to six at 93-87 and again at 95-89 with Wade's floater in the lane. James' three-point play with 1:38 to go came after Westbrook's fadeaway jumper for a 97-92 game, but Nick Collison's baseline slam off a pass from Durant gave the Thunder some breathing room with 1:17 to go.
Both teams didn't show early nerves, as each came out firing and connecting from all points of the floor. Miami made 5-of-6 treys in the opening period, including Battier's for an early 8-2 lead. The Duke product hit three of them in the period and his final one was followed by a Mario Chalmers triple that doubled up the home team at 20-10.
The Thunder trailed by 11 on two occasions, but trimmed the deficit to 29-22 by quarter's end thanks to James Harden's jumper over Chalmers at the buzzer.
Miami continued its efficient offensive play early in the second quarter, embarking on an 8-2 scoring stretch punctuated by a James slam in transition.
The margin stood in that general area until late in the half as Ibaka's layup and Westbrook's bucket from in close sliced the deficit into single digits.
This is the fifth time since 1967 that the league's scoring champion and MVP have met in the NBA Finals. It is the first time since Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls beat MVP Karl Malone's Utah Jazz in 1997...The teams split four regular-season tilts with Durant averaging 29 points in those games...Oklahoma City committed just two second-half turnovers...Oklahoma City improved to 9-0 at home during this postseason...Collison scored eight points with 10 rebounds in the win...Chalmers scored 12 points and Bosh added 10 in the loss...This series is the first championship among the four major American sports that is being decided between two teams with nicknames that don't end in "s".