LeBron Puts Charge Into Thunder, MVP Race


VIDEO: LeBron, Miami thump Thunder in Thursday’s showdown

OKLAHOMA CITY — Weeks before Russell Westbrook knew he would need a third knee surgery, back when he was rolling right along with his Oklahoma City Thunder, and so too were Portland and San Antonio, he was asked to rank his team’s prowess in the Western Conference.

“I think we’re the best team in the NBA,” Westbrook said. “I don’t think about the West or the East. We’re the best in the NBA.”

The Thunder entered Thursday night’s showdown against the Miami Heat boasting the league’s best record. But anointing a best team isn’t something to be done in December or February. And so it was on OKC’s home floor, on the night Westbrook made his long-awaited return to a standing ovation, that LeBron James provided this stark reminder to all: He is not only the reigning two-time MVP, but the two-time reigning Finals MVP to boot.

He delivered an overwhelming start, scoring the Heat’s first 12 points, deflecting passes, running the floor and dunking with no remorse as Miami roared to a 34-17 lead after one quarter. The Thunder made several runs, got as close as five points, but each time the Heat, led by a LeBron growing more menacing by the game, answered with force.

Whatever has James fired up, whether it’s Durant’s frontrunning MVP candidacy, the Mount Rushmore volcano, the whipping Oklahoma City wind, he is using it to his advantage. Thursday’s game-high 33 points in 33 minutes on 15-for-22 shooting — 14-for-17 inside the arc — was his 13th 30-point game since Jan. 1, and his fourth in a row. He has seven of them in the last nine games going back to the Jan. 29 home loss to the Thunder that put on exclamation point on Durant’s stupendous MVP run.

The only way the Thunder found to stop the bleeding was to actually make James bleed. He got clobbered with about six minutes left as he aggressively attacked Thunder power forward Serge Ibaka at the rim. Somehow he made the bucket, then crashed to the floor with blood flowing from his nose. He left the game and wouldn’t return, but the damage was done as Miami held on for a 103-81 rout.

He was ruled free of a concussion after the game, and will have until Sunday to recuperate before the black-and-blue Chicago Bulls come calling in Miami. The Heat will take a four-game win streak into that game as they completed a six-game all-Western Conference road trip 5-1, ringing up West contenders OKC and the L.A. Clippers, plus West playoff teams Golden State, Phoenix and Dallas with James shooting 57.1 percent on the trip.

If this is Durant’s MVP to lose, at least now we must consider the race officially on.

Of course, the regular-season MVP award is secondary to a Heat three-peat or the Thunder capturing their first championship, but history is attached to this MVP. No one has won three in a row since Larry Bird did it from 1983-86. Before Bird it was Wilt Chamberlain from 1965-68. And before Wilt it was Bill Russell from 1960-63.

Chicago’s Derrick Rose spoiled James’ first run at three in 2011, and now Durant is threatening to do it again. Westbrook, who has watched every mesmerizing performance from the bench as he recovered, said Durant is clearly the MVP as of now.

“It’s obvious, it’s obvious,” Westbrook said. “I mean he has so many different stats throughout the season that nobody has done. He’s done a great job of leading us as a group. He’s done it in a way that I don’t think nobody has done it this year.”

It wasn’t so obvious Thursday. Durant finished with 28 points on 10-for-22 shooting, but he was just 1-for-6 from beyond the arc and he even missed three of his 10 free throws. As James attacked early, Durant played it passively, perhaps hoping to give Westbrook an opportunity to gather his legs and find his touch. Whatever it was, the Heat defense walled him off. Durant turned it over three times and was 0-for-2 six minutes in; James had 14 points, six on dunks and Miami was off to a 20-8 start.

“He did what very few can do, that’s impact and set the tone on both sides of the court,” Spoelstra said. “He’s an absolute, true throwback in terms of being a two-way player and understanding how important it is. While he wasn’t necessarily on Durant to start, he was very active with his hands and blowing up pick-and-roll coverages with his speed and his awareness, and obviously he was just so aggressive with that mentality, everybody just gained confidence from that.”

James has the Heat surging, and quietly now just 1 1/2 games behind Indiana. Meanwhile, the Thunder face a period of transition as Westbrook and Durant work on the fly to regain the form that led to a 21-4 record before their three-time All-Star point went under the knife again.

It will all make for a fascinating stretch drive and a very meaningful race for MVP.

“I’ve never put pressure on myself to receive the [MVP] award,” James said. “I just went out and played my game. That was what happened out of it. And obviously, for me, I try to be the MVP every night for our team and just try to put us in position to win.”

He did so, emphatically, Thursday night.


VIDEO: The Inside the NBA crew discuss the Heat-Thunder matchup

36 Comments

  1. 3timeMVP says:

    LBJ is still the best! an all around player that no one can do it. he is absolutely the MVP for this season. period.

  2. Miami Heat Fan says:

    LBJ is far better than KD, and KD knows that and wish the voting of MVP is today, because LBJ is stepping the pedal now. :-)

  3. md9 says:

    King James MVP you haters kd don’t play d at all. Kd just a scorer king James all around game every night. Go heat go

  4. lbj says:

    People forget that Lebron is far more efficient than KD just look at their field goal percentages Durant is just under 51% which is good but nothing special dont forget even Bosh and wade are better field goal percentages than Durant. Durant takes far too many outside shots i think. By the wy LBJ is shooting almost 58% now there is the true mvp

  5. Amadou says:

    LeBron james is way better than KD, he got better jumpshot and drives in better. also why would LBJ be playing realy hard when he got d wade and bosh on his side. kd knows how to shoot three’s, but he dont makes it all the time. the superstars are not better than the king

    • Phill says:

      Lol do you even watch basketball? “Why would he play really hard” more of a reason he isnt mvp this season.

  6. real fan says:

    c’mon Durant deserves the MVP throphy right now.. but the NBA stuff is idolizing and worshipping Lebron and whatever he does.. he’s a great player but right now everybody should admit and recognize the greatness of Durant. Thunder got a better record than Miami, even without Westbrook..

  7. David says:

    This is absolutely BS. Kevin Durant proved that he can carry the team the way LeBron did when westbrook was out. They won games and he averaged AMAZING numbers. Now lebron has ONE good game against thunder (NOTE: THUNDER CAME BACK AND WON PREVIOUSLY W/O WESTBROOK) and hes a “LOCK” for MVP??? NBA is unfairly bias toward Lebron. He is not the MOST VALUABLE PLAYER right now…Durant is.

  8. Mikey says:

    Soooo Kevin Durrant outplays Lebron James all season long and is considered the forerunner to be MVP…. Then Lebron James has ONE game where he scores 7 more points than Durrant and suddenly Lebron James is the forerunner for MVP??? In the NBA’s eyes this is not about who is the better player… it’s about who will make them the most money… So Lebron will win MVP but not because he has played better than Durrant this year… Durrant deserves it because he has played so good this year, but Lebron will get it because of the fame and fortune that he brings to the table.

    • truth says:

      Actually its more than that… Lebron James PRE- ALL STAR break, went ham on the mavs, the warriors game winning shot AND this game versus OKC. the MVP atleast on a week to week basis is done exactly what it says, week to week. Kevin Durant has had a better season than LBJ, but with the looks of it, LBJ is going to continue his slight edge over KD. If this continues, LBJ will take over KD. if not, KD will retain his mvp status./
      More importantly LBJ left clobbered in the game with 6 minutes left. He would’ve dropped another 6-10 points in the final minutes.
      Secondly, LBJ scored 12 points in 3 minutes. What makes you think he couldnt have dropped 50? he didnt even shoot in the 2nd until like 3 minutes left into the quarter. ITS A CHOICE

    • Bobokapo says:

      Yea, you got point, but neither the year has ended. So LBJ can make his case for mvp. Its up to kd to hold off lbj. If he does, the he deserves the award. There is no such thing as mid season mvp.

      • Mikey says:

        MVP stat considerations are not based on possible scenarios but on actual results. You can’t just say, “Lebron would have had 50 if, blah blah blah.” The fact is he didn’t… he had a slightly better game than Durrant and the NBA wants to jump all over it because it will make them more money. Oh and by the way Durrant actually did have a 50 point game this season… actually 54. Look at Durrant’s pie chart compared to Lebron’s. Durrant has clearly been the better player but NBA.com has Lebron at the number 1 MVP spot. The NBA will continue to headline every great game that Lebron has and barely mention the numerous great games that Durrant has and Lebron will get MVP. Hopefully that doesn’t happen but I’m betting it will.

      • Mikey says:

        MVP stat considerations are not based on possible scenarios but on actual results. You can’t just say, “Lebron would have had 50 if, blah blah blah.” The fact is he didn’t… he had a slightly better game than Durrant and the NBA wants to jump all over it because it will make them more money. Oh and by the way Durrant actually did have a 50 point game this season… actually 54. Look at Durrant’s pie chart compared to Lebron’s. Durrant has clearly been the better player but NBA.com has Lebron at the number 1 MVP spot. The NBA will continue to headline every great game that Lebron has and barely mention the numerous great games that Durrant has and Lebron will get MVP. Hopefully that doesn’t happen but I’m betting it will!

    • dafog says:

      considering an MVP is no only thru the points itself…they have the new standard called PIE which evaluates the overall performance of a player ot just thru the points!!!

    • Jim says:

      WTF you smoking son? He averaged 37 points on their 6 game road trip where they went 5-1 not to mention the sick game winner he hit on the Warriors. Noones discounting what KD has done but dont discount what LBJ has done while sharing the court with another star. Imagine Wade missed 27 straight games? I bet you Lebrons numbers would be the same as KD’s

      • Mikey says:

        MVPs are not based on what you “guess” but on what actually happens and Durrant has obviously had a far superior season overall. If you deny that than you really just don’t pay attention to the overall season.

  9. Elliot says:

    According to this KD only hit 1-6 behind the arc and made 7-10 freethrows, notice ”just”. But lebron were 1-5 from behind the arc and 2-5 freethrows, hows that different? How’s that not ”just”?

    • kodi says:

      Well said bro.. LBJ is wow.. every body need to be inspired by all these athletes specially LBJ, selected few has talent like that.. but not even to the talent level of LBJ… But be appriciative get inspired and dont let any negative just ruin inspiring people..

  10. Erlo says:

    I always ask myself when thinking of the MVP, if I could pick one player to be on my team this year, who would it be? I laugh and anyone who would take anyone over Lebron. It’s not a smart move. LBJ is clearly the MVP.

  11. WADECOUNTY says:

    Lebron owns Durant he is 14-4 against him all time…. if it wasn’t for a true MVP and future hall of famer Dirk Nowitzki the Heat would br four peating!!

  12. adolfo says:

    Lebron is a way better player then KD, lebron can play all 5, thats an MVP, shoots over 55% the best players in the game right now hands down..
    KD is very good but is just not his time yet.!
    miami heat all day..

  13. ism says:

    This was probably the hottest start I have ever seen from a player/team. OKC was boasting with confidence and the initial tempo was really high, but the Heat’s steals and overall defense plus James’ making shots from EVERY angle was just too much for them.

  14. jacko says:

    does OKC really need westbrook? like come on it seems in any big game he never comes up with the goods and holds KD back

  15. timpson says:

    Dont think lebron should get MVP cause as dominant as Jordan was they wouldn’t give it to him all the time.

  16. okc2014 says:

    Miami won a game in Oklahoma and OKC won a game in Miami. They are tied up. Both games were very good games. OKC just needs to get their chemistry together w/ Westbrook back. Westbroook made 16 points for the limited minutes he did play, better start than Rondo! Go Thunder!

    • LOL says:

      No they werent LOL The first game was a MAJOR ANOMALY because OKC set a franchise record for 3’s plus shooting over 50% while AT THE SAME TIME, SAME GAME, Heat shot 16%, which just never happens. THATS the only reason they won that game just raining all those crazy 3s outa their mind. Stuff like that doesnt win a playoff series and it sure doesnt do much to say who the better team is. Too much of an anomaly. This game here the Heat WRECKED OKC the RIGHT way by outhustling them and playing great D not bombing ridiculous amounts of 3 pointers in that once in a generation bs. Heat in a series 4-2 all day.

  17. Kofi says:

    The truth is James is an all round far better than KD, KD is a good scorer so he can settle down with scoring title bcos LBJ is taking his 5X MVP and 3peating

  18. Compete says:

    I love watching this 2 teams compete each other… i’m a heat fan and a LBJ fan but if today we can award the MVP, we can give it to KD, but we have several games ahead.. what if the heat can win 27 straight and leabron averaging 12 triple doubles in that strecth.. no one know how this season will ean.. But one thing is for sure, both teams will be in the playoffs

  19. jake s. says:

    No one is surprised in what Lebron did today, or what the Heat did today. KD didnt widen the margin 2 weeks ago and Lebron didn’t widen the margin today. He will get the benefit of popularity and press… but LBJ just played hard and took a hit.

  20. yeah boy says:

    LEBRON play well when motivated and the way durant saying he want to be number 1 Lebron will not give that number spot that easily and this game show that Lebron still the best sorry Durant maybe next year

    • kodi says:

      Man.. tell these peeps to dont get it twisted.. LBJ is like fricking amazing.. I just with these disbeliever like T&T commentator Uldrich watched this game.. He is such hater and and trying to make lebron disbelieve him self.. I wish every young player watch that interview with uldrich. Lebron belives in himself so much and no one can make him think otherwise. Regardless LBJ is for real no player in the past or present is not even close to him.. Man we WITNESSED it last night..

  21. Sebastian Valmont says:

    He’s a 4-time MVP not 2-time