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The Miami Heat started Game 1 of the NBA Finals on fire, but could not sustain that burst over the course of the game. The Heat lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder 105-94, falling behind 1-0 in the Finals.
In their first Finals match-up, scoring champ Kevin Durant outdueled MVP LeBron James, scoring 36 points to James' 30, including 17 in the fourth quarter. Russell Westbrook scored 27 with 11 assists and 8 rebounds. Durant and Westbrook by themselves outscored the Heat 41-40 in the second half.
James' 30 points were the most he has ever scored in an NBA Finals game, and the 7th time in the last 8 games he has scored 30. His All-Star counterparts struggled, though. Dwyane Wade scored 19 points on 7 of 19 shooting, while Chris Bosh scored 10 while shooting 4 of 11.
The Heat jumped to an early lead while depending on a barrage of long jump shots, leading by as much as 13 during the second quarter. Shane Battier scored 13 points in the half, while James led all scorers with 14. At halftime the Heat held a 54-47 lead even though OKC shot better in the first half (56% to 51%).
But when those jump shots stopped falling in the third quarter, the Thunder made their move. They outscored Miami 27-19 in the third quarter to take a one-point lead, then blew by the Heat in the fourth quarter by a margin of 31-21. The Heat shot just 40% after halftime, including 2 of 9 from three-point range.
"Honestly, I think we just came out with a lot more intensity on the defensive end. Made them feel us a little bit," Westbrook said of the Thunder's second-half rally.
Compounding Miami's difficulties in the second half were seven turnovers and Oklahoma City's 8 offensive rebounds. Oklahoma City outscored the Heat in the paint 56-40, and scored 24 fast-break points to Miami's 4. Both of those stats reflect the extent to which Miami depended on outside jump shots throughout the night. When the shots fell, Miami was up big. Once they didn't, OKC was able to mount a comeback like it has many times throughout the playoffs.
Shane Battier scored 17 points for Miami, making four three-pointers. Udonis Haslem led Miami with 11 rebounds. Miami's much-maligned bench did not get much of a chance to prove itself. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra only let 8 of his players see the floor in Game 1, only 6 of which played more than 11 minutes.
The team paid the price, looking gassed by the end of the game. OKC's younger core, meanwhile, looked like it could run all night. "They just made more plays than us," Wade said. "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."
Miami will get a chance to even up the series Thursday night at 9pm in Oklahoma City.