To those that don't understand how the Oklahoma City Thunder operates best, the second and third quarters of Game 1 on Tuesday night were head-scratchers.
Kevin Durant, the league's reigning three-time scoring champion, had squeezed off only four shot attempts.
He scored just eight points in his 22 minutes of court time over that span.
While many wondered how could that be — and why Durant wasn't the center of OKC's offense on every trip — what was going unnoticed was how the Thunder was methodically clawing its way back from a 13-point hole and setting up Durant for another one of his fabulous fourth quarters.
“I'm a guy that lets the game come to me but is also aggressive at the same time,” Durant said. “I know when to take shots, when to make the right play. People can say this and that. I learned to just tune it out and just play my game.”
It seems a part of it is becoming a game of possum.
After spending the second and third quarters setting up teammates and focusing on defense and rebounding, Durant came alive in the final period, scoring 17 of his game-high 36 points to lead the Thunder to a 105-94 victory.
It was the eighth time this season that Durant has scored at least 15 points in a fourth quarter. And there's a theme that has emerged in those contests: in five of those games, Durant had attempted 15 shots or fewer through three quarters.
Tuesday, he had attempted 10.
“I just know it's going to come back around,” Durant said when asked about his mindset during those dry spells.
All season, the Thunder has been at its best when everyone is involved. Sure, Durant's scoring skills have carried the team, but it hasn't been the result of a one-dimensional attack.
With fellow All-Star Russell Westbrook and reigning Sixth Man of the Year James Harden, the Thunder has two other options that can be equally deadly. But only when less-heralded offensive players such as Thabo Sefolosha and Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison are threats is when OKC has been truly unstoppable.
That's what turned the tide for the Thunder in Game 1, and it's what figures to continue to be a key as the championship series rolls along.
“It's always about making the right play,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “There's going to be many opportunities that Kevin and Russell and James and other guys have to step up and score. But it's always about making the right play. If you think you can score and that's all you're thinking, you're thinking the wrong things. You've got to think of making the right play for your team.
“Those two (Durant and Westbrook) have an amazing ability to get where they want to get and shoot over the defense. But they also have done a very good job of finding open looks for other guys. It's never been about one or two guys. It's always been how we can score and how we can stop them from scoring.”
All year, the Thunder has found success when three to four players have at least 10 points and when six or seven players attempt at least five shots. Ball movement, basically, has been the basis for blowouts.
In those middle two quarters of Game 1, the Thunder was executing despite Durant's shot tally. After being outscored 29-22 in a first quarter in which Durant led all players with six shot attempts, the Thunder outscored the Heat 52-44 in the second and third periods.
All eight Thunder players that logged more than three minutes scored in those quarters. Oklahoma City also had 10 assists on 19 made field goals in those middle two quarters.
“It should be more about how we're playing,” Collison said. “If the ball's moving, different guys are going to get shots. If we try to force-feed Kevin and he's in bad places, it's not good for us, either.
“Obviously, Kevin's the best scorer in the league for the last three years so we want to get him shots. But if he's not getting shots, I think we need to look at how we're executing. We can't just say we're going to force-feed Kevin and make him make plays because that's not fair to Kevin either.”
But when the first three quarters are spent making everyone a part of the attack, defenses no longer can focus solely on Durant in the fourth. And by then, as we saw Tuesday, Durant still has enough energy to put together one of his performances that have earned him the title of King Closer.
“The game always ends up the best players are always going to get the most shots, and that's always been the case since the game started and it's not going to change,” Brooks said. “But just because you're the best player doesn't mean you always have to have the shot.”