Feb 20, 2014, 11:26 PM EDT
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.
Oct 1, 2014, 1:41 PM EDT
Broken hand is supposed to sideline Rondo for 6-8 weeks.
Oct 1, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
I list my personal picks for top five backcourts.
Oct 1, 2014, 12:21 PM EDT
Second round pick foregoing additional guaranteed dollars in order to bet on himself.
Oct 1, 2014, 11:39 AM EDT
Reminder not to believe everything you read, especially if it’s attributed to ‘a source.’
Oct 1, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
Cousins was tied for the league lead with 16 last season.
Oct 1, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT
The new-look Hornets, with Lance Stephenson in tow, are hoping to build on a playoff run and a promising young core.
Oct 1, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT
Kobe wants to shake the rust off before the games count for real later this month.
Oct 1, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
Good of you to ask, but it’s not that simple.
Oct 1, 2014, 8:30 AM EDT
“I approach scoring like apple picking,” says Durant. “Keep the good ones and leave the rotten ones.”
Oct 1, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
Jackson is out for the season due to injury, but will be getting a nice payday from Philadelphia nonetheless.
Oct 1, 2014, 12:06 AM EDT
New floor should be in place for the start of the 2014-15 season.
Sep 30, 2014, 10:51 PM EDT
Professional sports franchises are businesses above all else, and typically would rather avoid politics.
Sep 30, 2014, 9:44 PM EDT
Sep 30, 2014, 8:15 PM EDT
Everyone wants to derail the 76ers’ plan
Sep 30, 2014, 7:20 PM EDT
I don’t know whether this helps Kentucky’s players. It opens Calipari’s options, though.
Sep 30, 2014, 6:28 PM EDT
Now we know what show promos TNT is going to beat us over the head with during the next playoffs.
Sep 30, 2014, 5:44 PM EDT
Expectations are reduced, but Miami still has the chance to be pretty a pretty good team — even without LeBron James.
Sep 30, 2014, 4:59 PM EDT
Sep 30, 2014, 4:20 PM EDT
John Wall fires back: ‘They haven’t seen a playoff game yet. When they make one they can start talking.’
- Hey John Wall/Dion Waiters, Stephen Curry says Warriors have best backcourt. And he’s right. 3
- ProBasketballTalk 2014-15 Preview: Charlotte Hornets 1
- Kobe Bryant plans to play in all 8 preseason games for Lakers 2
- ProBasketballTalk 2014-15 Preview: Miami Heat 8
- Mike Miller points to him being amnestied as start of LeBron James leaving Miami 14
- Kobe Bryant thinks he could physically play beyond contract extension 14
- Trey Burke, in wake of nude-photo scandal: ‘My judgments will be much better’ 11
- Report: Kevin Durant says he wants to play in 2016 Olympics (his free agent summer) 5