OKC Thunder: Kevin Durant's play driving MVP talk

The two leading contenders for the honor of best player in the league square off Wednesday night when Durant and the Thunder visit LeBron James' Miami Heat.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: January 28, 2014

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Durant's latest and greatest opportunity to build on his already immaculate résumé comes in the form of a potentially pivotal matchup with James, the four-time MVP who has led his Heat to back-to-back NBA titles. It's the first of two meetings between the two and one of several factors that could swing MVP votes in the second half of the season.

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.”

by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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