NBA Finals: LeBron James gets best of Kevin Durant late as Heat even series with Thunder

Down two, 12 seconds left, the ball in Kevin Durant's hands on the baseline. Nobody north of Palm Beach thought Durant would miss. But this time, LeBron James, the biggest, baddest baller on the planet, guarded Durant.
by Berry Tramel Published: June 15, 2012

Kevin Durant got the ball in scoring position, with the game in the balance, and suddenly all was right in Thunderworld.

The Thunder had played cruddy for 3 1/2 quarters Thursday night, only to come alive down the stretch and somehow crawl its way back into Game 2 of the NBA Finals.

Down two, 12 seconds left, the ball in Durant's hands on the baseline. Nobody north of Palm Beach thought Durant would miss. In these NBA playoffs, he had conditioned us to believe he was the last man in America who could miss a clutch shot.

But this time, LeBron James, the biggest, baddest baller on the planet, guarded Durant. Shawn Marion and Metta World Chaos are primo defenders, and Durant had slain them with game-winners, but neither of those ruffians is LeBrawn.

Durant got a step on LeBron, pulled it up six feet from the basket and tossed a floater at the basket as a forearm directed him sideways. The ball bounced off, and soon enough the NBA Finals were tied.

The Heat beat the Thunder 100-96, and now the series moves to Miami with Durant having been proven human and LeBron reminding us to go slow on that passing-the-mantle of the world's-best-player crown.

LeBron guarded Durant from the get-go in Game 2 — wise move, Erik Spoelstra — and helped shut down the Thunder offense. OKC was in an 18-2 hole, and this game looked over.

But we know two things about the Durantulas. They always come back, and Durant knows how to deliver if they get close.

So back came the Thunder, including 16 fourth-quarter points from Durant, giving him 33 in the Finals' two fourth quarters. Durant's 5-point flurry — a driving dunk, followed by a rainbow 3-pointer — in a span of 13 seconds brought the Thunder within 98-96, and when LeBron settled for a deep 3-pointer that bounced off, the stage was set.

Durant ready to steal the stage.

And Derek Fisher's inbounds at midcourt with 12 seconds left put Durant in great shape. Durant might have made a mistake by not driving all the way to the basket. He's quite the finisher. But the Heat defense was closing fast from all corners, and Durant has a feel for this game, in case you haven't noticed.

So Durant pulled up, LeBron popped him with contact that was incidental if you fly Heat colors and was assault if you fly Thunder blue, and Durant's shooting percentage in the final 24 seconds of playoff games on shots that can tie or go ahead fell to 3-of-5.

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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