LeBron James put on a spectacular performance yesterday against the New Jersey Nets. With Dwyane Wade resting his ankle, James scored 37 points, grabbed 6 rebounds and dished out 7 assists. However, it was his clutch play that, in my eyes, effectively sealed the deal in the MVP race, even with 6 games left in the regular season.
For those who missed what might have been the most spectacular individual performance of the regular season, here is the gist of it – LeBron scored 17 points in the final 4:47 as the Heat managed to win a game that was seemingly out of reach, being down by 7 points with 2:28 left in the game. As LeBron was shooting free throws during the end of the game, the New Jersey crowd started the MVP chants. You know you have a really special player if he gets genuine MVP chants away from home.
The only player in the league that has come even remotely close to what LeBron has accomplished this season is Kevin Durant. Besides the epic performance against the Nets, there are a couple of factors that give James the advantage over Durant in the race:
Looking at the efficiency rankings, LeBron James is at the very top, while Durant is ranked 3rd. While Durant is averaging just under a point more than LeBron (Durant 27.8 ppg, James 26.9 ppg), James holds the advantage in a few other categories. Probably the most notable difference in stats between the two is how well they involve their teammates. LeBron averages 6.3 assists a game to Durant’s 3.5. Besides involving his teammates, James has been better creating offense for himself. LeBron has been assisted on 38.3% of his field goals, while Durant has been assisted on 47.5% of his. In the middle of all this, James has improved his shot selection which has helped him average a career-high in field goal percentage.
No Wade – No problem
There is no doubt Miami will not win the championship without Dwyane Wade sharing the spotlight with LeBron. But we are talking about who the regular season MVP is, and the matter of the fact is that Miami have done magnificently well when number 3 has been absent. The Miami Heat have a 12-1 record this season with Wade on the sidelines, and James’ great play is the main reason for that.
Not only is James a beast when it comes to putting up amazing numbers, but he does a lot of the dirty work. Those things that role players are supposed to do, things that don’t show up on the box score, James does that too. His man-to-man defense is great and throughout the season he has guarded all 5 positions. Having such immense versatility on both ends of the floor has given Miami a huge lift this season. If you need to lock down an opposing player – throw James at him and he will do as good a job as anyone.
To bring stability to a team in the regular season, its superstar needs to be present in as many games as possible. James has always had the will to play in every single game. He missed one game early in the season, following that nasty ankle sprain. An ankle sprain like that would keep most players off the floor for at least 4 or 5 games, but James refused to sit out more than one. The fact that he rarely misses games has given his teammates a sense of security and certainty, which obviously leads to all around better performance by the team.
The only time Kevin Durant was really at the top of the MVP ladder was when he won the duel against James as Oklahoma beat Miami. Days later James returned the favor, as Miami beat the Thunder. The LeBron critics will still point at his failures in the finals and 4th quarters. But with his performance yesterday, as well as his overall performance this season, he has proven that he has it in him. He has also proven that when it comes to regular season he is indeed “King James”.