Thunder and Heat answer our questions in Game 1 of NBA Finals

Kevin Durant posted a game-high 36 points Tuesday night.

Game 1 of the NBA Finals answered many of our pre-series questions, but certainly not all of them. A look at what we did learn in OKC’s 105-94 Game 1 victory Tuesday night:

Which team is better at closing games out?

As everyone suspected, the Thunder.

A Kevin Durant three followed by a swooping drive to the rim, gave the Thunder a decent cushion in the fourth.

Then Russell Westbrook’s pull-up jumper from 17-feet with three and a half minutes left gave OKC a 10 point lead at 93-83. Miami never sprang for a serious run after that.

LeBron James and Dwyane Wade did their best to chip away down the stretch but OKC overwhelmed them on both ends.

LeBron had a pretty kiss off the glass to draw the and-1 from Nick Collison with 1:38 left to make it 97-92.

But a Collison dunk and a Chris Bosh 3-point miss on the other end, more or less ended it in favor of OKC, who woke up on the defensive end in the second half. That, more than anything else, propelled them to a 1-0 series lead.

Looking ahead:

This series could very well come down to free throws and that does not bode well for Miami. Oklahoma City is the finest free throw shooting team in the league, just ice-water from the line. It’s the small stuff that gets it done in June.

Can the Heat hang with the young, fresh legs of the Thunder?

Of course they can. Miami took it to OKC in the first half, courtesy of their sharp-shooting from deep.

OKC was rusty in the first half, turning the ball over eight times to Miami’s four. They did, however, get to the rim more than the Heat and shot 56 percent from the field, despite being down 54-47 at the half.

Miami was extremely efficient from 3-point land in transition, particularly Shane Battier, who scored 13 points in the first half.

Is the hick town of Oklahoma City really ready to host a major American sporting event?

Surprisingly … yes!

In fact, Jessica Sanchez, who sang the National Anthem, cemented herself as THE next great anthem singer, putting Finals re-tread Christina Aguilera to shame. It wasn’t exactly Whitney Houston in the ’91 Super Bowl, but it was pretty damn good.

As for the rest …
No, a tumbleweed did not knock out ESPN’s feed and no, Jim Ross was not brought in to be the special guest PA announcer.

Yup, Oklahoma can actually put on a show when the pressure is on. Its crowd was arguably the most rabid Game 1 crowd in NBA Finals history and the Heat couldn’t hear themselves think throughout much of the game.

Who will win the third quarter?

Miami carried over its hot shooting from Saturday night into Tuesday.

But things predictably changed in the second half.

Durant hit a three to open the third as the Thunder exhibited better energy after intermission. OKC’s defense was also swarming to open the third as Westbrook broke up several potential Heat fast breaks.

Durant found Thabo Sefolosha underneath with 6:45 left in the third to tie the game at 60 and the Thunder carried momentum the rest of the way.

Side note: In the third quarter, ESPN flashed the requisite “Russell Westbrook has never missed a game in high school college or pro” stat, cementing the fact that he’ll tear his ACL in Game 2.

What will be this year’s most annoying Finals commercial?

ABC/ESPN
shoved promos for the show “Wipeout” down our throats during breaks of
the last few NBA Finals. Thankfully it’s not as bad this year.

But fear not, Verizon has taken charge in the annoying department.
If you quietly sang the following lyrics while driving to work this morning in
your car:

“Mac and Cheese, Mac, Mac and Cheese … can I have some please?
” that means that the man is winning and the Mayans just might be right.

Is Dwyane Wade injured?

Nope, apparently not. Wade had rejuvenated legs in Game 1 after looking hopeless at times in the Boston series.

He had a pivotal and-1 driving to the lane with 8:57 left in the fourth to kill OKC’s momentum and keep the game close at 80-77.

The Thunder really must also know this going forward:

Wade is one of the better guards in NBA history at rejecting a shot and keeping it in play. As OKC made a run late in the third, Wade swatted a shot by Derek Fisher and didn’t even have to jump. What Fisher was thinking taking it to the rim against such an athletic team was beyond me and everyone else watching Game 1.

Is Oklahoma City mature enough to block out the Finals noise and just win this thing?

Absolutely.

The Thunder’s ball movement early in the fourth was brilliant and looked exactly like that of the Spurs during their 20 game win streak.

In the words of Ric Flair, “to be the man, you gotta beat the man.”  I’ll add that when you do beat the man, it doesn’t hurt to steal all of his tricks – and that’s exactly what OKC looks to have done.


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