As Kevin Durant gets prepared to face off with LeBron James on national television Thursday night, the Oklahoma City Thunder superstar knows the bar has been raised. James is on run of historic proportions and is forcing his rivals to keep pace.
The defending MVP has scored at least 30 points in six straight games while also shooting better than 60 percent from the floor in each contest, a feat nobody in NBA history has ever accomplished. Durant knows that means he must continue to improve.
This according to the Associated Press (via ESPN.com):
By comparison, the three-time NBA scoring champion Durant has hit both of those marks just five times all season. Durant says he's always trying to raise the bar on his own level of play, and James only provides more inspiration for him to get better.
"I always feel that I have to raise the bar for myself every single day. I think I'm competing against the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the season, throughout the season and seeing if I can be better than that," Durant said.
"Of course, LeBron James is a really good friend of mine, a big inspiration, a guy I looked up to in high school, middle school, just hearing about him when he was in high school and being the No.1 pick out of high school was a pretty big accomplishment and now the stuff he's doing now, of course he's a big inspiration. I want to get there as well, so I just got to keep working."
Durant is having a tremendous season of his own. The forward is averaging 29 points, seven rebounds and four assists while shooting 52 percent. Yet, James is still threatening to run away with his fourth MVP award thanks to his dominant stretch.
The ease with which the Miami Heat star has been able to score has left players around the league in awe, including players like Durant, who are accomplished scorers. And he's done it without putting himself before the team. The Heat have won all six games during the stretch.
For fans, Thursday night's meeting between two of the league's top players should be a treat. You'll have LeBron attempting to stretch his streak to seven and Durant doing everything in his power to steal the spotlight away.
In an era where rivalries have faded, the potential exists for Durant and James to rekindle a throwback rivalry. Two elite players at the peak of their powers that already battled for one title and it wouldn't be a surprise if it happened a couple more times.
It would be great for the sport. When you have players who are already as good as these two perennial MVP candidates pushing each other to get even better, every player in the league takes notice. It has a trickle-down effect.
Can Durant and the Thunder finally slow down "King James" or will the amazing run continue? Fans should have a lot of fun finding out on Thursday night.