Wednesday, May 23, 2018
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Thunder strikes first

Durant, Westbrook pace victory


Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook makes a pass around Miami's Udonis Haslem in Game 1 Tuesday night of the NBA Finals. Westbrook finished with 27 points, 11 assists and 8 rebounds.

Associated Press Enlarge

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Kevin Durant scored 17 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter, Russell Westbrook added 27 points and 11 assists, and the Oklahoma City Thunder rallied from a 13-point deficit to beat the Miami Heat 105-94 on Tuesday night in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

LeBron James, still chasing his first NBA title in his third MVP season, shined through three quarters and blew past Durant head-to-head several times before the Thunder switched their defense.

James ended up with 30 points -- the most he's ever had in three trips to the finals -- but it wasn't enough with Durant taking over late. James lost in the finals once with Cleveland and again last year with Miami.

Durant made six of 10 shots in the fourth quarter to power the Thunder ahead after they had trailed until their final possession of the third quarter.

Game 2 is Thursday in Oklahoma City.

DAYTON DUO: Oklahoma City reserve Daequan Cook and Miami backup point guard Norris Cole played together in middle school and were teammates for two seasons at Dayton Dunbar High School.

"It will be fun. I always wish the best for him, but now, you want to win," Cole said. "It's great that both of us can be here and represent Dayton Dunbar, but now we have to go our separate ways, just for this week or two."

Cook was one year ahead of Cole and both stayed in state to go to college.

Cook spent just one season at Ohio State, making it to the national championship game alongside Greg Oden and Mike Conley, and is already in his fifth year in the NBA.

Cole is just now a rookie, after completing his senior year at Cleveland State last year.

Over time, Cole has sought advice and encouragement from a high-school pal he always respected.

"He was a very unselfish player. He was the man in high school -- the best player that I'd seen while I was in high school," Cole said.

PERKINS BACK: Kendrick Perkins' last appearance in the NBA Finals came to a bitter end.

After suffering a devastating knee injury in Game 6 of the 2010 finals against the Los Angeles Lakers, Perkins had to watch as his Boston Celtics lost their chance to win a second championship in three years in Game 7.

He returned to play just a dozen more games with Boston after recovering from torn ligaments in his right knee, then was dealt to Oklahoma City at last year's trade deadline.

"I always think about it like 'What if?' but we're just going to go out there and play hard, do what I need to do, play my role for the squad and I think the rest will take care of itself," Perkins said. "We've got enough players on this team to get the job done.

"But it (does) feel like unfinished business because I never thought I'd get back to this place so soon -- within a year and a half."

Until the trade, Boston had been the only team Perkins played for over the first 7 1/2 seasons of his career. He was originally drafted by Memphis and then traded to the Celtics.

"At the moment, it was difficult because you never know what you're getting into. For myself, I grew up around a whole group of guys. I was there for eight years and that was the only place I knew," Perkins said. "Once I got here, it kind of went out the window the way everybody welcomed me with open arms. Just that the team was excited about winning, I fit in right from the jump."

After growing up as one of the younger players on Boston's veteran-laden roster, the 27-year-old is among the older players for Oklahoma City. He marveled while watching the NBA draft combine recently that it's going on 10 years since he entered the league in the 2003 draft straight out of high school.

He endured some early years when the Celtics weren't so good, then a sudden rise to championship contender after Boston acquired Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett.

ODDS & ENDS: LeBron James and Kevin Durant both logged heavy minutes in the last game of the conference finals. Durant played all 48 minutes of regulation for the first time this season while James only came out for the final 28 seconds -- after the game was comfortably in hand with Miami up by 12. ... Chris Bosh continued to come off the Heat bench, just as he has done since coming back from an abdominal injury during the conference finals.

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