The Thunder beat the Heat 103-87 Sunday night. It was a very meaningful regular season game. It was the first matchup between the two teams that are probably the favorites to meet in the NBA Finals this year.
Kevin Durant and LeBron James were matched up for most of the game. Durant completely outplayed James.
Durant put up LeBron-like numbers flirting with a triple-double as he scored 28 to go along with nine boards and eight assists. He also effectively shut down James on defense who scored just 17 points, was 8-of-18 from the floor and attempted only one free throw.
Eight times in the game Durant was matched up with LeBron when he tried to score. LeBron went 1-of-8 with Durant guarding him, settling for step-back jumpers and floaters instead of driving to the rim or scoring in the post.
It was the statement game for the Thunder and for Kevin Durant. Durant is letting the world know that is he isn’t already, he’s nearing LeBron James’ level.
Tonight, Durant became the first player this season to really challenge LeBron as the MVP. LeBron’s numbers are better overall and will be until the end of the season but there’s more to the MVP than that, whether you like it or not.
If the Thunder finish the season with a better record than the Miami Heat and Durant outplays LeBron in the teams’ two meetings than the award is his. He’s already done it once and the Thunder are a few games ahead of the Heat now.
Last year Derrick Rose won the award when LeBron had the better numbers. It’s the story that matters too and the Thunder and Durant this year are a lot like Rose and the Bulls of last year.
The Thunder and Heat will play again this season on April 4 in Miami. That game will be closer to the end of the regular season and could be the matchup that decides the MVP award this season with the voting likely to be pretty close.
If the Heat come out and play like they did tonight then it will be Durant who brings home the hardware. If LeBron shows up and puts the young Thunder back in their place – like he should do – then he will rightfully win the award.
Just remember, only LeBron can have one of the best regular seasons in NBA history and still choke away winning the MVP.