Miami’s LeBron James was not bad. He was good most of the game, in fact. But Kevin Durant was better, much better, all game long. The difference between the two superstar players helped Oklahoma City overcome a 13-point deficit in Game 1 of the NBA Finals to earn a 105-94 victory.
The Thunder have a 1-0 series lead with Game 2 Thursday back in Oklahoma City. And it was Durant most responsible for OKC’s enviable position. He scored 17 of his 36 points in the final period on an dizzying array of shots. James had seven of his 30 when the game was decided. To wit: He had only one basket over the first 8:15 of the fourth.
James averaged just three points in the fourth quarters of the Heat’s six-game loss to Dallas last year, taking almost all the heat for Miami’s Finals failure. He was good in this one, Durant was just better.
And when fans chanted “MVP! MVP!” late in the game, they weren’t talking about James, the guy who won the regular-season award.
They meant Durant, who is in a race with James for his first ring — and maybe the title of best player in the world is on the line, too.
But first thing’s first. The game matters most, and James needs more help. Russell Westbrook shot just 10 of 24, but after halftime he and Durant outsored the entire Miami team 41-40. He finished with 27 points, eight rebounds 11 assists and just two turnovers. Meanwhile, Dwyane Wade had 19 points but shot just 7-of-19 for the Heat, while Shane Battier provided some rare offense by scoring 17 points, his high this postseason.
Turning to a small lineup late in the third quarter, the Thunder improved to 9-0 at home in the postseason. Defensive ace Thabo Sefolosha helped defend James during the Thunder’s comeback, relieving Durant of the burden so he could focus on his scoring.
A couple of key stats were significant. One, OKC outscored the Heat 24-4 on fastbreak points. Not good, especially considering how effective Miami has been on the break. The second stat is this: The Thunder scored 56 points in the paint. Really not good.