James is widely considered a close second to Durant in the MVP race.
“We just got to play hard,” Durant deadpanned when asked about the matchup. “It's a regular game. It's another game for us. We just got to focus on us. Of course, we respect our opponent, but we don't come into the game saying ‘We have to stop this guy.' We got to stop their whole team. We just got to focus on us and do what we do.”
James is taking a different approach, at least publicly, telling Miami reporters Tuesday that slowing Durant is his primary focus.
“It's not secondary,” James said. “It's first-dary.”
Historically, head-to-head matchups stick in the minds of voters, especially whenever one of the two candidates thoroughly outperforms the other.
It could be argued that Durant has played James to a virtual draw in their matchups over the past three seasons. But James' teams have shown a mastery level of dominance over Durant's Thunder. Dating back to James' days in Cleveland, he owns a 13-3 record against Durant, including the Heat's 4-1 Finals win in 2012.
And James doesn't hide the fact that he gets up to face Durant.
“Between he and Melo, they're the toughest covers for me,” James told Miami reporters Tuesday about Durant and New York forward Carmelo Anthony. “It's a game (within) the game. You want to win. But you also want to try to do your part against who you're going against. I like going against the best, and he's definitely right up there.”