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NBA Finals: Thunder roll, Heat wilt in crunch time

By Brian Mahoney

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, June 12 2012 11:38 p.m. MDT

It's been a rapid rise toward the top for the Thunder, who started 3-29 in 2008-09, their first season here after moving from Seattle. Fans were clearly embracing the finals' arrival in Oklahoma City, where cars, buildings and even fans' hair seemed to be painted some form of orange or blue.

Fans standing until the Thunder's first basket didn't have to wait long, Durant knocking down a baseline jumper 70 seconds in. He made his first three shots, including two 3-pointers, but his teammates missed their first six attempts in falling into an early hole.

Durant made sure they were fine at the end.

Both superstars tried to downplay their individual matchup, Durant insisting it was about the team and James adamant that he didn't care about the best player in the game argument.

It was James' supporting cast that stepped up bigger to start, the Heat hitting five of their six 3-point attempts in jumping to a 29-22 lead after one quarter. Spoelstra kept Chris Bosh as a reserve, the role he has played since returning from a nine-game absence with a strained lower abdominal muscle. Smart decision, as Battier hit his first three 3-point attempts in the opening minutes to spark Miami's strong start.

Durant took only one shot in the second quarter, and it wasn't until 9 minutes had passed. By then, the Heat had built a lead as large as 13 points, keeping it in or near double digits most of the period before the Thunder sliced it to 54-47 at halftime.

Seemingly every fan was wearing the blue shirts hung on their chairs before the game — an exception being rapper Lil Wayne, who caused a stir during the Western Conference finals when he posted on Twitter that the Thunder wouldn't let him into their arena, with the team saying simply that he needed to buy tickets if he wanted to come. He did, he and his guest both wearing black.

The sea of blue around the court looked like the scene last year in Dallas, where James struggled so badly when it mattered most. He said he let his team down, vowing he would have no regrets about his performance this time around.

Unfortunately, the result was all too familiar to the Heat.

James quickly answered after Oklahoma City tied the game for the first time at 60-all midway through the third, banking in a shot and powering in for a layup and a quick four-point lead. The Heat pushed the lead back to five but the Thunder kept coming, finally pulling ahead for the first time when Westbrook darted into the lane and was fouled while scoring with 16.4 seconds remaining, the free throw making it 74-73.

Baskets by Durant and Sefolosha to open the fourth pushed it to a five-point lead, and the Heat never recovered.

Notes: Battier's 13 first-half points equaled his high for the postseason. He and Westbrook were also called for double technical fouls after Westbrook's basket with about 30 seconds left in the half. ... The Thunder, 23-59 in 2008-09, duplicated the feat of the Heat, who also reached a finals within three seasons of a 25-win season. Miami was 15-67 in 2007-08 before playing for the title last year.

NBA Finals

Oklahoma City leads Miami 1-0

Game 1: OKC 105, Miami 94

Thursday: at Oklahoma City, 7 p.m.

Saturday: at Miami, 7 p.m.

June 19: at Miami, 7 p.m.

x-June 21: at Miami, 7 p.m.

x-June 24: at Oklahoma City, 7 p.m.

x-June 26: at Oklahoma City, 7 p.m.

x - if necessary

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