All it took was one hustle play and one heady one.
“They did a good job of really bodying him up early in the game, and they were sending a (second) guy over,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “He’s seen every defense thrown at him, so it took him a few minutes to adjust to that.”
Durant netted 11 points in the second quarter, punctuating the period with a sick crossover and pull-up jumper to beat the buzzer. It capped a 35-point frame for the Thunder and put OKC ahead, 56-46, at the break.
Better spacing and ball movement allowed the Thunder to break open the game. After registering only two assists in the first quarter, the Thunder dished 10 assists on its 14 field goals in the second quarter. The bench contributed six of those helpers, with four of the five bench who saw action in the period recording at least one.
“I thought If we could move their feet then we were going to get good shots. And I thought the guys did a great job in that second quarter,” Brooks said. “I thought we did a good job throughout the game. Unfortunately, we had about a three-minute stretch where we stopped defending and they made some tough shots.”
Cleveland used a 21-2 run to cut a 95-71 Thunder lead with 6:34 left to play to five inside the final two minutes. Eleven unanswered points forced Brooks to reinsert Durant and Reggie Jackson. After five more unanswered points brought the Cavs within eight, forward Serge Ibaka returned.
A steal and layup by Cavs guard Dion Waiters (team-high 30 points) trimmed the deficit to 97-92 with 1:12 remaining.
But the Thunder closed out the Cavs by making five of eight free throws inside the final minute.
“Anything can happen in this league,” Durant said. “Guys have pride, and Cleveland plays extremely hard. Those guys made it a game late. We just had to close it out.”