Another slow start dooms Thunder in Game 2 loss

The Oklahoma City Thunder finally faced a deficit even Kevin

Durant couldn’t rescue them from.

Another slow start put Oklahoma City down 16 almost immediately,

and even Durant’s 16-point fourth quarter wasn’t enough to rally

the Thunder back in a 100-96 loss to the Miami Heat in Game 2 of

the NBA Finals on Thursday night.

In a postseason filled with thrilling comebacks, Oklahoma City

lost its grip on home-court advantage by losing at home for the

first time this postseason.

”We can’t get down that much, especially at home,” said

Durant, who finished with 32 points. ”We’ve got to correct it.

”We’ve got to just stay positive. That’s the whole deal and

we’ve got to come ready Game 3.”

The next three games will be played in Miami, with Game 3 on

Sunday night.

The Heat charged out to an 18-2 lead as Oklahoma City missed 12

of its first 13 shots, and the Thunder never were able to take the

lead.

”We took too many bad shots. That’s the bottom line,” coach

Scott Brooks said. ”We got down and then we were playing

aggressive and then we had to play with desperation. We just can’t

get down 17. I told the guys, `We’re a much better team than to be

down 17.’

”We have to come out with some toughness. We’ve got to come out

with force and energy and all of us have to be on the same page of

just fighting every possession.”

While the Heat were building their big lead, Brooks was caught

on television telling his players they weren’t playing as hard as

Miami. It was the second time in as many games that Oklahoma City’s

first-half effort came into question.

Durant suggested after Game 1 that the poor play as the Thunder

fell behind by 13 in that game had to do with jitters from their

first appearances in the finals. Both he and Westbrook pledged that

it wouldn’t be a problem in Game 2 but it was.

”We didn’t come out with the defensive toughness, the

disposition that we needed to play with,” Brooks said. ”We have

to do that first and then if it doesn’t work, then we’ll think

about doing other things.

”But right now, we have to play better from the very

start.”

Oklahoma City has dug itself double-digit deficits in the first

quarter of each of its last three games. It was an 18-point hole in

Game 6 of the Western Conference finals against the San Antonio

Spurs and 11 in Game 1 against the Heat.

It got as bad as 25-8 in Game 2, and this time the comeback

formula didn’t work.

”We came up short but it wasn’t short because of the effort. It

was just short because we got down 17,” Brooks said.

”It’s tough to come back. They’re the best team in the East.

We’re the best team in the West. It’s just tough to come back from

17.”

Led by Durant, the Thunder nearly were able to wipe out that

whole deficit and – perhaps even more impressively – a seven-point

hole after Chris Bosh’s two-handed jam made it 98-91 with 53.8

seconds left.

Durant got a quick layup and then hit a 3-pointer after Thabo

Sefolosha picked off an outlet pass from Dwyane Wade. LeBron James

then missed a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 15 seconds

left to give Oklahoma City a chance to go for the tie or the

win.

After a timeout, Durant went for a quick 7-footer along the

baseline with 10 seconds left that wouldn’t fall against James’

defense.

”I tried to keep my team in it, they believed in me and we had

a chance,” said Durant, who had scored 17 in the fourth quarter of

Game 1 to lead Oklahoma City to a 105-94 victory.

”We had a chance, man. It’s tough. It’s tough to lose that

one.”

It wasn’t the play Brooks drew up in the timeout, but he was

still happy with Durant’s aggressive play.

”The last minute, I won’t even look at that. I’ll focus on the

first 6 to 8 minutes of the game. That’s more important than the

last minute or the last play of the game,” Brooks said.

”You know what? He missed the shot.”

Westbrook, who is dealing with a sore left thumb that had to be

wrapped during the team’s morning shootaround, missed his first six

shots during Oklahoma City’s opening struggles.

His only consistent scoring early on came when he got to the

free-throw line, and he even uncharacteristically missed twice in

six first-half attempts there.

”I just thought I was playing my game and got easy shots that I

usually make and layups,” said Westbrook, who missed 16 of 26

shots and scored 27 points. ”Just playing my game. Unfortunately

the shots weren’t falling.”

Brooks wasn’t as concerned with the offensive struggles as what

was happening at the other end.

”We missed some shots but we gave them too many easy shots,”

Brooks said. ”When you miss shots, that’s part of the game. But

you can’t go back on the other end and give them easy shots.”