Teaming with Russell Westbrook to outscore the Heat in the second half by themselves, Durant struck first in his head-to-head matchup with James, who had seven points in the final quarter and was helpless to stop the league’s three-time scoring champion.
“They didn’t make many mistakes in the fourth quarter,” James said.
Westbrook turned around a poor shooting start to finish with 27 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds for the Thunder, which surged late in the third period to take the lead for good. Scoring in nearly every way possible, Durant finished 12 of 20 from the field and added eight rebounds. He and Westbrook alone outscored the Heat 41-40 over the final two periods, showing that maybe this time it will be offense that wins championships. “Those guys they came out on fire. They were passing the ball well, knocking down shots,” Durant said. “We just wanted to keep playing. It’s a long game.”
James finished with 30 points, his most in any of his 11 finals games, but had only one basket over the first 8:15 of the fourth, when the Thunder seized control of a game they had trailed for all but the final few seconds of the first three quarters.
For James, it was a painful reminder of last year’s finals when he averaged just three points in the fourth quarters of the Heat’s six-game loss to Dallas, taking almost all the heat for Miami’s failure.
Dwyane Wade had 19 points but shot just 7 of 19 for the Heat, while Shane Battier provided some rare offense by scoring 17 points, his high this postseason.
Oklahoma City improved to 9-0 at home in the postseason. Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said his team, pushed to seven games against Boston in a grueling conference finals that ended on Saturday, preferred a quick turnaround ahead of the finals. But the fadeout suggested the Heat suggested otherwise against the young Thunder, whose core players are all 23 and younger and look as if they could keep playing all night. “We just came out with a lot more intensity on the defensive end. Made them feel us a little bit,” Westbrook said of the second half, when the Thunder outscored the Heat 58-40.