If there was any serious conversation of Kevin Durant taking the lead in the MVP race this season, consider it dead and buried—at least for now.
To take nothing away from the reigning scoring champion, Durant is having a terrific year and his team is just a half-game shy of possessing the best record in the NBA right now. He’s also a tenth of a point shy of leading the league in scoring average and there isn’t another player performing at a higher level right now.
Except for LeBron James.
We’ve heard it all before with James: He’s the best player on the planet. He’s reaching Jordan-esque levels. He’s going to win a thousand titles.
Hyperbole and exaggeration aside, James really is playing like the best player on the planet and his historic stretch of near-perfect basketball in February is something we’re unlikely to see again any time in the near future.
According to this tweet from SportsCenter, what LeBron is doing has only been done twice before:
LeBron James just tied an NBA record, scoring 30+ points with 60% or better in 5 straight games (M. Malone, Dantley). Averages: 31 PPG, 71%2013-2-10 23:04:59
In his last five games, James shot 53-of-77 from the floor including 10-of-18 from behind the arc. And if the scoring stats aren’t impressive enough, he also averaged 6.8 rebounds and six assists per game in that stretch.
At least for the time being, LeBron has a decided advantage in the MVP race. He won’t continue to play at the unbelievable level he is right now, but don’t expect him to slow down very much, either.
The first half of the season is winding down, and with the All-Star break approaching, Miami has an opportunity to rest, regroup and prepare for a second-half run on the shoulders of a player who picked a great time to play arguably the best basketball we have ever seen.
Despite ripping off five straight wins, the Heat dropped two of their three prior games, and Ray Allen and Chris Bosh have both been dealing with the flu. Miami needs the All-Star break to reload for the second half.
There’s very little to say about Miami that hasn’t already been said. The reigning world champions are still at the top of the league, and they’re primed to make another run at the title this season. The top of the East is gaining steam, though, and with Chicago expecting the return of Derrick Rose in the near future, the Bulls could be knocking on the door for first place when it’s all said and done.
James’ historic stretch has not only carried the Heat through a pivotal section of its schedule, but it has also set the tone for the second half of the season. Momentum goes a long way toward a title run, and adding several big wins to the résumé before a break in the schedule is paramount for sustaining momentum when play resumes.
Anything can happen in the span of an 82-game schedule, but what LeBron and the Heat have done in the last five is an indication of what will likely happen in the second half, as an experienced and talented team barrels down the homestretch toward the playoffs.
The last week has just been an appetizer. We may not see another stretch of basketball like James has played recently, but what we will see in the second half is a team that will be rested and ready for the challenges ahead—and a team that knows what it takes to get over the hump on a collision course with a championship.