The Heat were supposed to walk away with the first one. The Thunder had zero experience in the Finals, and LeBron James has been playing on a supernatural level of late. King James, you may be sure, lived up to his billing — he finished with 30 points, nine rebounds — and Oklahoma City slogged through the mud through the first two quarters and most of the third.
And then. If there’s any two-word phrase that characterizes OKC’s playoff run, it’s “And then”: somehow, when time grows short, the Thunder manage to stand tall. Down seven at the half, they were up one after three, and every minute or so after that, they stretched that lead one more point. With 29 seconds left, LeBron quietly retreated to the bench; Mike Miller got a bucket in his place, but it didn’t matter anymore. Oklahoma City 105, Miami 94, and the Finals are off to a roaring start.
If you were wondering if anyone other than Miami’s Big Three could score, be assured that they could: Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh combined for 29 points, and Shane Battier (who started at the four instead of Bosh) and Mario Chalmers added 29 more. The Heat shot decently, at 46 percent, knocking down eight of 21 long balls — Battier had four of them, seemingly on demand — and missed only four free throws all night. And Udonis Haslem had more rebounds than anybody, reeling in 11.
What does it take to beat that? Thirty-six points from Kevin Durant, 27 from Russell Westbrook (a double-double with 11 assists), 52 percent shooting, +8 on the boards — the ever-tenacious Nick Collison had ten rebounds — and Thabo Sefolosha putting the suffocation moves on LeBron in the fourth quarter, holding King James to six points.
This wasn’t a night for blocking shots: the Thunder swatted away only three, the Heat just one. Nor was it a night for turnovers: both teams threw it away ten times. It was, however, a night for drawing a line in the sand, and there’s a lot of sand downtown, half the roads being torn up these days. It will be Thursday before we see if Miami will step over it.