HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — That shadow boxing routine LeBron James and Dwyane Wade did before Sunday’s loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder might have been more appropriate had James and Kevin Durant done it.
After all, Sunday was the MVP duel we’d all been waiting for. The two names atop the KIA Race to the MVP Ladder (and almost every other unofficial list of candidates) were slated to go head-to-head in a showdown that would also serve as The Finals preview so many people wanted to see.
Well, Durant showed up and showed out — chasing a triple double before finishing with 29 points, nine rebounds, eight assists, two steals and a block — in what, for most of the night, was truly a head-to-head matchup James. The Heat star, on the other hand, continued the struggles that have plagued him the past week and a half. He finished with a pedestrian (by his standards) 17 points, seven assists, four turnovers and three rebounds.
One game does not a MVP make. But if you are trying to find ways to separate the two of them, head-to-head competition is a great place to start. And Durant dominated this matchup.
He did his work on both ends of the floor, making clutch plays on the defensive end and shredding the Heat on the other end with his scoring and his facilitating (Kendrick Perkins owes Durant an expensive dinner after all of those sweet feeds he got last night).
When Heat coach Erik Spoelstra summed up his team’s night this way — “They jumped us and everybody saw it. They kicked our butts, we know it, we’ll own it” — he very well could have been talking about the heavyweight showdown between Durant and James, who is clearly going through one of his toughest stretches of the season right now (17 points, 7.5 assists, 7.3 rebounds, 4 turnovers and 40 percent shooting in his last four games).
The same way Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman suggests no one should hand the Heat the Larry O’Brien trophy prematurely, no one should go delivering that MVP hardware to James before the season is done.
James and Durant have been locked in pretty much a two-man race in our MVP Ladder all season, and for good reason. But we’ve made it clear from the start that nothing was guaranteed for either man. The top spot will have to be earned.
Right now, it’s hard for anyone to dispute that Durant has made the strongest case for the top spot right now.