Claremore Daily Progress

June 13, 2012

HORNING: Everything in its right place for Thunder

CLAY HORNING
The Norman Transcript

OKLAHOMA CITY — If the Oklahoma City Thunder were a game show, it would be “Let’s Make a Deal” without the donkeys and goats.



No gag gifts.



No zonks.



Hard to lose when all the options are good ones, and don’t the Miami Heat know it after Game 1 of the NBA finals Tuesday night, emphatically claimed by the Thunder 105-94.



Behind door No. 1?



Derek Fisher.



The late season addition, there to stabilize a game that couldn’t have started a whole lot worse for Oklahoma City, down 10 points 6:34 into the night and 13 9:34 before the half.



But in came the old man to hit a huge 3-pointer that kept the Heat in range early, and then back he came with two quick baskets in the second quarter that did the same, turning a 13-point Miami edge into a nine-point Thunder deficit.



Fisher even got Heat coach Erik Spoelstra to call time out, up nine points, like the Thunder might run off 25 straight if he hadn’t.



Maybe they would have.



Behind door No. 2?



Thabo Sefolosha.



The defensive specialist, who played less than nine first-half minutes, was the Thunder’s third-quarter spark. Six minutes into the second half he’d made a trio of free throws, a steal, an assist, a block and a field goal.



The basket, a reverse layup off a feed from Kevin Durant tied it — 60-60 — for the first time since 0-0.



If it doesn’t sound like much, every fan in the building knew who was fueling the Thunder run.



Not bad for a guy averaging 5.5 points and 2.9 rebounds since the playoffs began.



Behind door No. 3?



Well, the stars had to come out sometime and they finally did for an Oklahoma City team that arrives in waves.



Between the talent on the floor and the atmosphere in the arena, it’s tempting to believe there’s no winning formula for Miami, not as long as the Heat are playing in Oklahoma City, anyway.



The energy inside just doesn’t translate over a television screen. Even during breaks, the noise raises the roof.



It’s hard enough to defend against the NBA’s most talented group of youngsters. Then, catching a breather, the noise pounds you from all sides.



Such was the fate of the Heat.



You try dealing with all that and Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook when it all comes together for the dynamic duo.



Oklahoma City led by only a point after three quarters, but Durant finished with 17 more points and four more rebounds to stop with 36 and eight. Meanwhile, while Westbrook, who made just 3 of 10 first-half shots, continued what he began in the third quarter to finish with 27 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds.



It’s an amazing thing, a few minutes here and a few minutes there, when you wonder how the Thunder ever fall behind, or how they don’t win every game by 20 or 30 points.



They have the highest ceiling in the league and it’s not close and going back to the Laker series they’ve been reaching it more and more in the fourth quarter.



Tuesday night it was Durant and Westbrook coming on strong, but Sefolosha continued to play huge defense, while Nick Collison, who couldn’t buy a call, was fantastic with terrific defense, eight points and 10 rebounds.



Maybe Collison’s Door No. 4.



One more strong option.



Like Serge Ibaca, who was kind of quiet, and James Harden, who was really quiet. But Sefolosha had to take his minutes from somebody. He played almost 20 after the half.



Perhaps this is confusing.



Apologies if it appears unfocused.



But that was Oklahoma City on the first night of the finals. It wasn’t one guy. Or two or three.



The Thunder won big.



They were altogether too much.