A friend of ours who is a big Oklahoma City fan — he's from the OKC area and, frankly, he's the only OKC Thunder fan we've ever met or known, though obviously, if you watched the game last night, you know there are plenty — told us last week he's ecstatic to see "the world watch Kevin Durant." Now, plenty of fans have been watching Kevin Durant for a while; he's made three All-Star games and has one of the best-selling jerseys in the NBA. But he doesn't necessarily have a signature persona or a big look-at-me finishing move, and the focus of these Finals is, as always, the Heat drama anyway. This is, in many ways, the Durant Unveiling on a global stage. It's going well so far.
Durant scored 17 points in a dominant fourth quarter for the Thunder, and they won Game One of the NBA Finals over those blasted Heat 105–94. It was, like Durant's whole game, essentially effortless. True Hoop's Henry Abbott puts it well this morning, saying Durant "simply heads home, as if running downhill, to the bucket." That's pretty much it. Durant makes scoring 17 points in the final quarter of a game being played on basketball's biggest stage like the easiest, most basic act in sports. Who, him? Worry?
Abbott also praises Durant's "lack of drama," though one wonders how much of that is a media thing; we've all been conditioned to be staring at and inspecting LeBron James for so long that we're just waiting for him to twitch. Durant, as Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski writes, is "cleansed of original basketball sin." The casual fan has nothing invested in Kevin Durant winning or losing, which means he can just breezily win and we can all just watch. It looks graceful and normal and right.
LeBron James played well last night, but he was pretty much the only Heat who did; has anyone's ultrasuperstar reputation taken a bigger hit these playoffs than Dwyane Wade's? (This is when Wade usually responds by scoring 40 points, it's worth noting.) The larger issue for Miami is that the Thunder are so much deeper than the Heat; their eight-man rotation (including Derek Fisher, whom it's just nice to see) clearly wore out the Heat, leading to the fourth-quarter takeover. Miami, the vaunted superteam, just doesn't have the horses. Last night made you wonder how in the world they're going to keep up with the Thunder, LeBron playing his heart out or not.
But that's the thing about Game One of the NBA Finals: It always looks like the winner is just going to dominate, because it's all the context we have. Game Two is Thursday night. One senses the Heat already need the rest until then.