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LeBron turns in MVP performance in Heat’s blowout win over Thunder

Feb 20, 2014, 11:26 PM EDT

LeBron AP

Throughout the first half of this season, Kevin Durant has widely been discussed as the player most deserving of receiving the league’s Most Valuable Player award.

While Durant has been largely spectacular, those championing his cause may have neglected to consider one simple fact: LeBron James hasn’t exactly gotten worse, and in fact, may still be far and away the league’s best player.

James asserted himself against Durant’s Thunder from the opening tip on Thursday, scoring 16 of his 33 points in a blistering first quarter on Durant’s home floor that left little doubt as to where the MVP should ultimately reside. Miami cruised to a 103-81 victory, as James continued a personal assault that has now lasted four straight games.

LeBron finished with 33 points on 22 shots, to go along with seven rebounds, three assists and four steals. But it was that first quarter performance that knocked the Thunder on their heels, and struck doubt into their hearts.

When James puts forth maximum effort, it’s a scary site for opponents that is essentially impossible to stop. In this one, he scored his team’s first 12 points, and was active on the defensive end at the same time, creating steals that led to run-outs in transition.

It was really no different than what we’ve seen from James since the two contests before the All-Star break, where he’s clearly stepped up his game in order to help his team prepare for the postseason with a second half push. He scored 37 and 36 respectively in Phoenix and Golden State, before following up those efforts with a 42-point outing in Dallas immediately after the All-Star break.

The first quarter in Oklahoma City, however, was meant to make a statement.

James has heard all season long that Durant was the MVP, and there was no better time than in OKC on national television to let everyone know he wasn’t ready to concede that distinction. There’s no other way to explain the way he dominated from the jump, and was so visibly upset when a long three-point attempt — his sixth shot of the game — was the first of the night that he saw rim out.

LeBron wanted this one, or at the very least, he wanted to make sure he performed at his highest level if his team was going to end up with a loss. But his highest level almost makes that an impossibility.

Durant was fine in finishing with 28 points, and Russell Westbrook returned from injury to chip in a rusty 16 on 4-of-12 shooting. But when LeBron is this locked in, the only thing that can stop him is injury, and even then, he’ll still likely end up scoring.

James took a shot to the face that left him bloodied with under six minutes remaining, but managed to finish the dunk on the play where the contact occurred nonetheless.

Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were spectacular for the Heat as well, and that’s been the strength of this Miami team through back-to-back championship seasons. But it all started with LeBron, and his dominating first quarter effort that had MVP written all over it.

  1. jimeejohnson - Feb 21, 2014 at 11:20 AM

    This is as “in your face” as it gets. I like the Thunder but they can’t beat the Heat when it counts, like on their home court.

  2. patrickla818 - Feb 21, 2014 at 11:48 AM

    The league doesn’t have the type of dominant players it had 10-15 years ago. You ask why Kobe has one MVP when he has made 16 All-star games and been All-NBA Defense 12 times and the most prolific scorer for almost 10 years from 1999-2009?

    Because there was Karl Malone(1)KG(1) Shaq(1), Tim Duncan(2)..dominant Centers/Forwards always get preference in MVP voting.
    You also had Steve Nash(2), the best PG since Magic.
    Then you got Dirk(1), a 7 footer who could shoot like a guard!

    Other than Derrick Rose in 2011, who else can even compare to Lebron in dominance? Durant is STILL a n average at best defender. When Kobe guarded Lebron his first 5 years in the league, Kobe held his own and he was 25 lbs lighter!

    The league overall has too much parity and sameness. Hibbert is no Shaq or Duncan. He could become that if he wins a title. Rose is done. Irving could even get there if he gets on a better team, like the Lakers.

    Lebron is a beast and he has no equal right now. He is as dominant as Jordan was in his prime. Not as skilled but more physically dominant.

    • cole2417 - Jun 19, 2014 at 11:16 PM

      no equal right huh – this should have been durants 2nd MVP this season – and not to mention OKC was the 2nd best team in the league – while LeBron was on the 8th or 9th best team t6his past season!!111

  3. mickdamill - Feb 21, 2014 at 11:59 AM

    I remember when Steve Nash got his nose bashed in, I don’t remember him laying on the court crying about it.

    • heat256 - Feb 21, 2014 at 2:01 PM

      Remember when people took you seriously? Yeah, me neither.

  4. bhunter1995 - Feb 21, 2014 at 12:29 PM

    KD is still the MVP so far. Carrying his team without Westbrook is the number one reason, also, stat wise, KD is having a better season, and OKC has a better record in the harder conferance. MVP races aren’t decided by ono game matchups, in the long run this game won’t have much of an impact in the MVP voting process.

    • antistratfordian - Feb 22, 2014 at 3:30 AM

      Sure. That’s fine. MVP in February…. KD has been that before…

  5. jbeagles23 - Feb 21, 2014 at 12:37 PM

    Durant and okc are better without Westbrook

  6. thesixersbench - Feb 21, 2014 at 2:06 PM

    WOW LeBron. I was absolutely stunned by that performance last night. Absolutely statement game. It’s great to see someone in total command of their physical powers also playing with supreme confidence.

    I can’t wait to see what he does in the playoffs.

    • cole2417 - Jun 26, 2014 at 6:16 PM

      Or how about in the finals -the east was so bad they should have just give Miami a bye to the finals – the real finals wad the san, Antonio OKC series !! 1

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