Durant joins list of great players to fall in first Finals
MIAMI -- Kevin Durant already is in elite company, having won three straight NBA scoring titles, but Thursday night he joined the great players who didn't win a championship in their first trip to the NBA Finals.
Some of the names include Jerry West, Julius Erving, Isiah Thomas, Shaquille O'Neal and LeBron James, who finally won his first with Miami's 121-106 victory over the Thunder in Game 5 of the Finals. It made them hungrier and more determined to get back and win, and now Durant knows how they felt.
"It hurts," he said. "We made it to the Finals, which was cool for us, but we didn't just want to make it there. Unfortunately we lost, so it's tough. It's tough, man. That's the only way I can explain it.
"I wouldn't want to play with anybody else. I wouldn't want to play for any other city. I'm just blessed to be part of this organization, and hopefully we can get back.''
Durant, 23, averaged 30.6 points in this series. There doesn't seem to be a ceiling on how good he or Oklahoma City can be. The Thunder has a young, athletic and well-balanced nucleus that could be a perennial finalist if it's able to keep Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and James Harden together. But after winning Game 1 of the series, the Thunder struggled to match the Heat's intensity or level of play on both ends of the court.
Westbrook had flashes of brilliance but showed why he can be such an enigmatic player. He had a key foul when he didn't know the situation late in Game 4 and shot 4-for-20 in Game 5. Harden won the Sixth Man of the Year Award but shot 18-for-48 in the series, averaging only 10.2 points.
This could be the natural growing pains of a young team facing an experienced one that still felt the pain from losing to Dallas last year. But that wasn't any consolation. "It's unfortunate for us, man," Durant said. "We wanted it so bad. We've just got to keep working, keep working and hopefully next year we'll come back stronger."