LOS ANGELES — LeBron James' closest competitor for the 2012 NBA Most Valuable Player award says the Miami Heat star deserves to win it.
“He deserves all the love (for MVP),” said Thunder forward Kevin Durant. “He's playing phenomenal basketball. I'm just trying to get better every single game and trying to help my team as much as I can. I'm just blessed to be in that conversation.”
In his fifth season, Durant has strung together his best year, averaging 27.9 points, eight rebounds and 3.5 assists while shooting 49.7 percent from the field. But, thanks to James, it might not be enough.
James is averaging 27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 6.2 assists while shooting 53.1 percent. James also is a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year and has carried the Heat throughout stretches of the season without Dwyane Wade.
Durant said Sunday that it doesn't matter which team the Thunder draws as its first-round matchup in the playoffs.
If OKC finishes as the 2 seed as expected, the Thunder would play either Dallas or Denver. In the unlikely event that the Thunder lands in the top spot in the West, its most likely opponents are Utah or Phoenix.
“We just want to play,” Durant said. “It really don't matter who we play. It's going to be tough no matter who it is. In the playoffs, every team is good. So it really doesn't matter. We just got to come out there and be us.”
Brooks on the scoring race between Durant and Bryant: “I think they should just play a 12-minute, one-on-one game full court. Winner takes it all. That'd be pretty cool. It'd get good ratings.”
The Thunder allowed 67 total rebounds to the Lakers... Among the celebrities in the crowd Sunday were actors Denzel Washington, Jack Nicholson, Ashton Kutcher, Andy Garcia and Jerry Ferrarra, as well as movie director Steven Spielberg.
The Thunder returns to Chesapeake Energy Arena after a five-game road trip to close out the regular season with a two-game home stand. Oklahoma City will play Sacramento on Tuesday before closing the regular season against Denver on Wednesday. Tip-off for the Kings game is scheduled for 7 p.m.
By Darnell Mayberry