LeBron is on a mission to close the MVP gap..

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LeBron James, King James, Kevin Durant, Heat, ThunderThere were many headlines in last nights duel in Oklahoma City, but lets start here: LeBron James scored the first 12 points for the Miami Heat with jumpers, drives to the rim and monster dunks.

James came out firing on all cylinders vs the Thunder and reminded everyone that he is the best player in the NBA. James finished the game with 33 points and seven rebounds as he had his way with the Thunder defense in a 103-81 road victory. James had to leave the game early with a hit to his nose that left him shaken up.


What makes James so great is the help around him as Shane Battier and the rest of the Heat defense stepped up and made Kevin Durant struggle from the field. The rest of Miami’s Big 3 showed up on the offensive end as well. Dwayne Wade finished the game with 24 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds. Chris Bosh finished the game with 24 points and eight rebounds. When James, Wade and Bosh combine for 81 points, they are virtually unstoppable.

In their matchup on January 29th, Durant and the  Thunder picked up a statement win in South Beach over the Heat. Durant finished that game with 33 points and a victory, and it’s safe to say James had revenge on his mind going into this one. James knows that the NBA MVP award is on the line and he will have to show up big in all of the Heat’s remanding games if he hopes to close the gap on Durant.

Russell Westbrook returned to the Thunder lineup last night and looked a bit rusty, which is understandable after missing 27 games due to surgery on his right knee. Westbrook is often seen as the leader of this team and Durant was once again accused of deferring to him a bit last night. The Heat defense swarmed Durant but he took a big step back last night after his sensational scoring streak.

Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Thunder, Oklahoma City, NBA

It is only one game, so there is no justification for an overreaction here. But remember when Durant was scorching every team in his path (including the Heat) throughout the entire month of January? Is this the end now that Westbrook is back to take 12 potential Durant FGs away? (Westbrook finished with 16 points on 4-12 shooting). Durant finished with 28 points, but struggled from the field as he forced a few shots and didn’t have the flow that he previously had without Westbrook. The Heat defense forced him to shoot an inefficient 10-22 from the field. The chemistry between Westbrook and Durant going forward will be the determining factor of where they will end up in May and June, so lets give them a couple of games to get back in a flow together.

With a remotely healthy Wade, a contributing Bosh, and as James continues his quest to steal the MVP from Durant, the Indiana Pacers, Oklahoma City Thunder and the rest of the NBA title contenders should be concerned as Miami is looking to get back into championship run form. This is he turning point. Remember when everyone accused the Heat of cruising in December and January? News flash: those games DO NOT MATTER. Miami is starting to click on both ends and that is scary for anyone else that has to face them for the remainder of the season.

-Patrick Hazel (@pattywack25)