The Heat are going to have to figure out Kevin Durant quick, or else they could find themselves down 2-0 to a Thunder team that has shown no signs of slowing down, especially not in the fourth quarter.
Durant was the catalyst for a Game 1 win in Oklahoma City Tuesday night, with 17 of his 36 points coming in the fourth quarter. Russell Westbrook followed with 27 points and an impressive 11 assists, and LeBron James had 30 points, his highest point total in an NBA Finals game.
Unfortunately for James and the Heat, it wasn’t enough to beat the Thunder, who found themselves down by seven at halftime. It was all downhill from there, as the Heat were outscored 58-40 in the second half of the game, leading to a 105-94 Thunder win.
Dwyane Wade shot just 7 of 19 for the Heat, finishing with 19 points. Shane Battier stepped up and provided 17 points, hitting six of his nine shots; four of those were three-pointers.
Battier, along with Mario Chalmers, played a pivotal role in the game’s first quarter. Chalmers was effective, sinking a couple of three-pointers and hitting a 21-foot jumper.
However, he went silent in the second quarter, putting in only a single layup. It was much the same with Battier, who made all three of his three-point attempts in the first quarter, and followed that up with only four points in the second quarter.
The Heat struggled to stop the Thunder from getting good shots all night, something they’ll have to change for Game 2 tonight in Oklahoma City.
This time it is Dwyane Wade, not LeBron James, who is coming under fire for the Heat’s Game 1 loss, as no one, not even the most diehard LeBron haters, can blame James for the loss. James delivered one of his best playoff performances, whereas Wade extended his streak of making fewer than half of his shots in six straight games.
Wade entered the Finals averaging 22.9 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.7 steals, 1.3 blocks and 39.1 minutes per game, partly due to his tendency to recover from low-point performances very quickly.
Thunder center Kendrick Perkins is well aware of what Wade can do.
“The scary thing about it is that he always bounces back,” Perkins told the Associated Press. “Like every time he struggles in one game, he bounced back with a 35- or 40-point game. We have to make sure we keep them taking contested [shots] and keep them out of the paint. They’re going to bounce back, but we’re going to bounce back also because we felt like we could have played much better, too.”
Wade does admit that he isn’t the same player he was back when the Heat won their last championship in 2006, however.
“I was 24 — totally different,” added Wade, 30. “I’m not that athletic as I was in 2006. But I still have something in me. I still have some left in me. I wish it was possible to stay at that same athleticism as I was at 24, but that’s not possible.”
Even if Wade did have an off shooting night in Game 1, it doesn’t change the fact that he is capable of putting up huge numbers at any time, something that worried fans and speculative media members seem to forget.
Wade’s teammate, Udonis Haslem, addressed the media about its criticism of Wade on Wednesday during a press conference.
“You all need to get off Dwyane, man,” Haslem said. “I don’t understand what people are talking about with Dwyane. We’re in the NBA Finals. I mean, how bad can he be playing? We didn’t get here without him. Dwyane’s fine. He’s still our guy. Y’all want to put the heat on somebody, put it on the Miami Heat. All of of us. Lay off Dwyane.”
He may not have performed as many expected he would in Game 1, but he’s dominated games before and he can certainly do it again. One thing’s for sure: watch out for Dwyane Wade.