He strode to the post-game press conference podium as suave as can be, stepping onto the dais nattily draped in a rare suit and tie, both of which were deep black threads that, if his performance hadn't said it already, could have driven home the point that he is now all business.
“I just like Men in Black,” Kevin Durant said after emerging from a hot and sticky room full of reporters as seemingly the only guy who could keep his cool.
Suddenly, you're reminded that not only is this guy human, but he's still just 23.
But for 45 minutes and 48 seconds Tuesday night, this man in black was on a mission, dead-set on delivering in his first taste of the NBA Finals. His polka dot pocket square and crisp white Air Jordan shoes symbolized quite nicely the streaks of style that had just defined his night full of substance.
Durant scored a game-high 36 points to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 105-94 comeback win over Miami in Game 1 of the NBA Finals inside Chesapeake Energy Arena. It was the second-most points scored by a player in his Finals debut since the merger in 1976. Allen Iverson scored 48 in 1996.As he has been all postseason, Durant was again marvelous when it mattered most. He scored 17 of his points in the decisive fourth-quarter, helping the Thunder outscore the Heat 31-21 in the period.
His efforts led the Thunder back from a 13-point second-quarter deficit and seven-point hole at the half.
“KD is a terrific player, and we all know how (good) he is as a scorer,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “He's led the league three years in a row in scoring. But he's a special player because he defends, and we are a good basketball team because we defend.”
Ah, defense. There was plenty of that, too.
Durant took the challenge of checking LeBron James for the first three quarters. Over that span, the Heat's star and league MVP scored 23 points on 18 shots. James, meanwhile, was assigned to a much easier-to-defend offensive player in center Kendrick Perkins.
“I like what Kevin is about,” Brooks said. “He wants to be that two-way player.”
Durant added eight rebounds, four assists and a blocked shot. He made 12-of-20 shots (6-of-9 in the fourth quarter) and turned the ball over just twice.
“I think KD got a couple looks that we don't like,” James said. “He had two transition 3s that we gave up where he had nobody on him, and he had a couple jumpers that we didn't like, either, with nobody on him. We need to make adjustments with that. We will make adjustments.”
Durant downplayed his defense on James.
“You can't really stop a guy like that,” Durant said, “just got to play hard and contest. For me, he got a few layups, but I've just got to continue to stay in front and play my hardest. It's a tough match-up, but I've got to play with some fire and we'll see what happens.”
So far so good.