Kevin Durant verse LeBron James is the sexy, easy way to discuss Game 1 of the 2012 NBA Finals. To a certain extent it isn't unfair either. Both players were terrific, but Durant imposing his will with a 17-point fourth quarter was a defining factor in the game along with Russell Westbrook giving the Thunder more than Dwyane Wade gave the Miami Heat.
But when you really dig into what transpired, it wasn't really about LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant head to head.
Durant guarded LeBron for the majority of the first three quarters. During that time James was 8-17 from the field for 22 points.
With just under one minute to go in the third quarter Thunder head coach Scott Brooks switched Thabo Sefolosha onto LeBron. James missed his final shot of the third quarter and was 2-6 in the fourth quarter with seven points including 3-4 from the foul line. Not to be overlooked, the two buckets were ultra impressive "plus-ones" which kept the Heat in striking distance. Total, however, LeBron was just 2-7 from the field against Sefolosha.
On the other end, James rarely found himself guarding Durant.
The only two periods of time the MVP was assigned to defend the runner up was to close the first half with just over three minutes left and to close the third quarter with about one minute and thirty seconds left.
There were other times during the game the two squared off because of the Heat's over-switching in unnecessary situations, but total Durant only scored four points on 1-3 shooting with two free throws against James.
That being said I didn't think James was at his best in his short time on Durant.
LeBron was lazy going around off ball screens and cheated for a home run play late in the fourth quarter that led to two free throws. If James is going to step to the plate to guard Durant as this series goes on he is going to need to do a better job.
Wade was the player Durant had the most success against in individual match-ups. In these situations the Thunder superstar was 3-4 from the field, 1-2 from three, and drew two fouls, going 3-4 from the line totaling 10 points. The majority of when these two faced each other was because of the Heat's incessant switching in spots they had no business switching. Did Erik Spoelstra hire Mike Woodson as his defensive coordinator for the NBA Finals (the Heat have been switching a lot the entire playoffs, but it seemed even more extreme in Game 1)?
Finally, the player who was assigned to guard Durant for the majority of the game was Shane Battier. Against Battier, Durant was 3-7 from the field, 1-3 from three, for 7 points.
In addition to the ridiculous amount of switching, the Heat's biggest issue defending Durant was in transition where he was able to score 10 easy points in a variety of ways (two dunks, three pointer, and a put back).
It will be interesting to see what changes and adjustments are made in Game Two as Scott Brooks and Erik Spoelstra try and come up with ways to defend the opposing team's superstar.