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Kevin Durant dunking
The Oklahoma City Thunder prevailed over the Miami Heat last night in the first game of the NBA Finals. Behind a fourth quarter surge, they put the Heat away 105-94.Kevin Durant had 36 points and Russell Westbrook had 27 in the comeback victory. LeBron James had 30 points, but once again failed to finish the game strongly. The Heat stars faded away in a fourth quarter that featured 17 of Durant’s points and the team of Durant and Westbrook outscoring the Heat by themselves. James had only 7 points in the quarter.This was another episode in the saga of the Miami Heat and LeBron James being unable to perform in pressure situations like the Finals. Last year against Dallas, James averaged just 3 points in the fourth quarters, and was largely blamed for their loss in six games. This year, the Heat are coming into the Finals from a surprisingly tough seven game series win over the Boston Celtics. The Thunder, on the other hand, beat the San Antonio Spurs in six games after dropping the first two.At the end of game 1 in Oklahoma City, fans were chanting “MVP, MVP!” but they were not talking about this year’s MVP winner James. They were yelling it to Durant, who aside from fighting for the NBA Championship ring, may also be fighting to be named basketball’s best.The Thunder, while universally expected to be good, are also quite young and inexperienced. Their four top scorers are 23 and under. They definitely showed some nerves at the beginning of Game 1, and fell behind the Heat until the fourth quarter. They also have home court advantage and are 8-0 at home in these playoffs. With Durant and LeBron possibly cancelling each other out, the key to victory could lie in limiting turnovers and in the depth of their team. The Heat will need players besides the big three of James, Wade and Bosh to step up. Another key factor lies in how Chris Bosh has recovered from the abdominal injury that led him to miss most of the series against the Pacers and the Celtics.The main question on everyone’s minds, however, is once again whether the Heat’s Big Three will be able to perform or will once again choke. Many were saying that LeBron’s series saving clutch performance against the Celtics in Game 6 was a turning point, but there are grave doubts now after Game 1. It all remains to be seen, starting Thursday night, Game 2 in Oklahoma City. See video highlights on the next page.
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