Wednesday night has been circled on NBA calendars everywhere. It would mark the first of two meetings between the game’s most dominant players: LeBron James & Kevin Durant. Kevin Durant has been putting on a shooting clinic in the month of January. Over the last 14 games KD has been shooting an impressive 53% from the field, and with 33 points last night in South Beach, he extended his shooting streak of 30 point games to 12; which places him in a category of elites (Kobe, Shaq, Michael, T-mac, and KD). It’s no secret that KD possibly is the best scorer in the league. In fact, King James acknowledged that he had a great task at hand when guarding Durant. “There’s nobody that can guard him one-on-one,” LeBron said earlier this week, “Great offense will always beat great defense; KD is a great offensive player.” Well, we knew KD was great player and that he’s playing phenomenal basketball. So, just how great is Kevin Durant?
At this point in the season, Durant looks like the clear front-runner for MVP. But, despite his unmatched shooting capability and the historic numbers he’s putting up, LeBron quietly mirrored KD with 34 points of his own in the Miami Heat’s loss. The game had an uneasy introduction, as the first quarter seemed to get out of hand for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Miami dashed to a 22-4 lead, but with helpful contributions from rising stars Jeremy Lamb, defensive efforts from Perry Jones and a significant coaching change to sit Kendrick Perkins, helped changed things around. Scott Brooks’ decision to go with a quicker, more athletic line-up with Steven Adams off the bench and Ibaka rotating to center helped OKC quickly dig their way out of a deep hole. Normally, the Heat beat teams based off their athletic ability to run the floor, and find shooters in transition. But after previous seasons of playing the Heat with larger line-ups, Scott Brooks finally decided to go small-ball and match the Heat speed for speed, and let his athletes match-up accordingly. In fact, after the 1st quarter Perkins never reentered the game, Steven Adams wasn’t even in the line up. “I thought to win this game we had to make a decision to go with a smaller lineup. We have a lot of flexibility with our team,” Scott Brooks said to reporters after the game.
One thing is for certain, the real game between KD and LeBron started in the 3rd quarter. At one point, the two superstars went shot for shot every time down the floor, without even as much as a glance at another teammate. I think for that quarter alone, they fulfilled their own satisfaction for playing each other, one on one. In that moment, fans everywhere (myself included) realized that these are the two best players in the NBA, and they will battle one another for the rest of their careers. Yeah, it’s regular season, but this game had meaning, it always does. There was a purpose amongst the two superstars their pride was at steak. Despite the individual contest between Durant and James, LeBron gave his honest opinion about KD, “His ball handling hasn’t improved, people are probably just now noticing it. He has one of the best handles in the league. He can handle the ball, it’s a tough cover.” This is no knock on Kevin Durant. If anyone is qualified to speak on Durant’s game, it would be LBJ considering he’s now faced off with him 16 times winning 13 of the contests. But, maybe with the absence of Russell Westbrook, a new Durant is here. The numbers surely seem convincing. . .
Either way, we felt it was just bad timing for LeBron James last night. Durant is a unstoppable force right now, and there was nothing LBJ or anyone could do to stop him. When asked about the moment, KD put things in more realistic perspective, sort of like playing one on one with one of your brothers or cousins. “It was Rucker Park, that is what was going through my head. It was fun, I’m sure the fans got what they wanted to see with that one,” said Durant with a smile. “It’s been a while since I’ve been able to do something like that — we out and went at each other,” James said. “I haven’t had many days like that in a long time. It was fun.” – LeBron James