Oklahoma City win opening tie

Oklahoma City win opening tie

Kevin Durant won the opening round of his highly anticipated duel with LeBron James, scoring 36 points to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 105-94 victory over the Miami Heat in the opening game of the NBA Finals on Tuesday.

The NBA scoring champion hit 12-of-20 shots and added eight rebounds to help the Western Conference champions outscore the Heat by 18 points in the second half to draw first blood in the best-of-seven series.

"You know, this is a tough series," said Durant, whose 17 fourth-quarter points slammed the door shut on Miami. "This level of basketball is the hardest we play, and we just want to take it slow and take it a possession at a time,’’ he added.  "Guys got to just continue to believe in themselves. If we do that as a group, we'll be all right. It took us a couple minutes to get the nervousness out of us,’’ Durant said.

James, a three-time MVP, scored 30 points on 11-of-24 shooting, while adding nine rebounds, but it was Durant who triggered the Thunder's turnaround.

Durant's tussle with James is widely regarded as a barometer for determining the league's best player, with both also seeking a first championship. Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook scored 18 of his 27 points in the second half, while adding eight rebounds and 11 assists overall. The only other player scoring in double figures for Oklahoma City was forward Serge Ibaka, who netted 10.

Miami led by as many as 13 in the opening half but fell apart in the third quarter, and when Westbrook made a three-point play late in the closing seconds to give the Thunder their first lead at 74-73, the Chesapeake Energy Arena erupted.

"They got out in transition and that's their bread and butter, especially here at home," said Heat forward Shane Battier, who scored 17 points but only four in the second half.

"They run so well. For a while we contained them. Second half we made too many careless turnovers,’’ Battier added. Game Two is also in Oklahoma City on Thursday before the series shifts to Miami for the next two contests.

"This one is behind us now," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "About halfway through the fourth quarter, we were thinking we were putting ourselves in a position to win.’’

Wade conceded the Thunder "did a great job of turning up in defensive pressure" in the second half.

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