It could be said that there was a general consensus heading into the All-Star break that Kevin Durant was the player to beat for the MVP award. Many people did not dispute that LeBron James wasn’t out of the race though, and winning three of the past four MVP awards, he should never be considered to be out of the running. In the Miami Heat’s 103-81 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, James’ performance showed that this MVP debate is far from being decided.
James finished the night with 33 points (in 33 minutes) to go along with seven boards, three assists and four steals. His 16 points in the first quarter sparked the Heat to an early 34-17 lead at the end of the quarter, a lead that they would not lose for the rest of the game. James left the game with 5:50 to go after being struck in the face by Serge Ibaka while throwing down an emphatic dunk. His nose was swollen and bloodied up a bit.
Durant finished the night with 28 points on 10-of-22 shooting (1-of-6 from three) from the field. He struggled early, scoring just two points on 1-of-4 shooting in the first quarter. While James looked dominant, Durant looked timid to start the game off, which was unlike how he had been playing as of late.
The MVP race couldn’t be hotter at the moment. Over the past four games, James and Durant have nearly identical numbers. Durant is averaging 37 PPG, 10 RPG and 5.3 APG in his past four, compared to James’ 37 PPG, 9.5 RPG and 5.3 APG. The return of Russell Westbrook could hinder Durant’s performance down the stretch. Durant was averaging 28.1 PPG and 4.8 APG before the Westbrook injury compared to 35 PPG and 6.3 APG during his absence.
This was the last meeting between the two teams, who split the season series 1-1. As the league enters its final two month stretch, look for both James and Durant to turn it up a notch in the race for MVP that should go down to the wire.