Thunder Rumble Past Heat, Take Series Lead
OKLAHOMA CITY (CNN) — Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were instrumental as Oklahoma City Thunder won the first game of the 2012 NBA Finals.
Durant was the game’s top scorer with 36 points, while Westbrook notched 27, as the Thunder beat Miami Heat 105-94 in the best-of-seven series.
Three-time MVP LeBron James managed 30 points for the Heat, who lost out on last year’s NBA crown to the Dallas Mavericks. James’ battle with Durant is seen by most commentators as key to the direction of this year’s series.
But it didn’t start well for Oklahoma.
They had to overcome a 13-point deficit early on in the game, thanks mainly to a 13-point first-half haul from Shaun Battier. The Heat also nailed five 3-pointers in the opening quarter, a franchise record for the opening period of a playoff game.
However Durant, making his first appearance in the NBA showpiece, led Thunder’s fightback with an impressive performance that culminated in 17 points in the final quarter.
“I am just playing off my teammates and not trying to force anything,” Durant told reporters after the game, in quotes carried by Agence France-Presse. “Everybody came to play and we stuck together.”
His coach, Scott Brooks, was equally effusive about the team’s spirit and togetherness. “We showed a lot of toughness in the second half,” he said. “Really battling and fighting for every possession. I give our guys a lot of credit. They did a great job of competing in the second half.”
Brooks’ opposite number refused to panic after Miami’s opening setback. “We are a confident team and it is a long series,” said Erik Spoelstra, in quotes carried by AFP.
“This group has resolve. Sometimes we have to grind it out but we have the toughness to be able to bounce back.”
Game two tips off on Thursday in Oklahoma City.