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 Wednesday (AEST).
Durant, the NBA scoring champion, hit 12-of-20 shots and added eight rebounds to help the Western Conference champions overcome a seven-point half-time deficit.
Point guard Russell Westbrook scored 27 points, and had eight rebounds and 11 assists for Oklahoma City.
Three-time MVP James scored 30 points on 11-of-24 shooting, while adding nine rebounds, but it was Durant who triggered the Thunder's 18-point turnaround in the second half.
Durant's tussle with James is widely regarded as a barometer for determining the NBA's best player, with both also seeking a first championship.
"Everybody has to come to play," said Durant, who had 17 points in the fourth quarter on six-of-10 shooting.
"Everybody played hard in the second half. We stuck together."
Speaking of his play in the final quarter, Durant said: "I'm just playing off my team-mates. I'm not trying to force anything, I just take what the defense gives me."
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 period to give the Thunder their first lead at 74-73, the stadium erupted.
"I thought we showed a lot of toughness in the second half," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said.
"KD (Durant) is a terrific player, a terrific scorer," he added.
"But he's a special player because he defends. We're a defensive team."
Oklahoma City held a 43-35 advantage in rebounds after losing the first-half battle on the glass 20-17.
The Heat's big first half was the result of a combination of hot shooting from beyond the arc and inconsistent play by the Thunder, who committed eight turnovers.
But the Thunder, playing in their first championship since relocating from Seattle in 2008, opened the second half on a 13-6 run to tie the score at 60-60 with just under seven minutes left in the third quarter.
ReutersTags: basketball, sport, united-states First posted June 13, 2012 13:43:49