LeBron James has won two consecutive MVP Awards and four in the last five years, so he knows a thing or two about the type of basketball it takes to earn the NBA’s most coveted individual prize. According to James, Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder has done more to deserve the award.
All but conceding the race to Durant, James said on Wednesday in Memphis “it would be great” if Durant won the award.
“I think K.D. has had one heck of a season, and if he was rewarded with the MVP, it would be great,” James said. “It would be awesome for him, for his family. It would be a great thing for him. He has played MVP-type basketball.”
James went on to say that Durant has been “the most consistent basketball player as far as MVP this year. He has put up some great numbers.”
Durant is averaging 32.0 points per game this season to go along with 7.6 rebounds per game and 5.6 assists per game. James is averaging 26.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 6.5 points per game.
The Heat played without Udonis Haslem, Chris Andersen and Greg Oden against Memphis’ rugged frontcourt of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. In addition to the Heat’s three best big men being out, Dwyane Wade was also unavailable.
Wade missed his eighth consecutive game and 27th overall. Haslem didn’t travel with the team to Memphis due to a stomach virus. Andersen was with the team, but rested a sore back. The Heat started Shane Battier in place of Haslem and Toney Douglas for Wade.
Wade practiced before the game, but the Heat is being overly cautious with his sore hamstring, Achilles tendon and knees this close to the playoffs. He is questionable for Friday’s game against the Indiana Pacers.
The Heat led the Pacers by half a game in the Eastern Conference Standings before Wednesday’s set of games. The Pacers played the Bucks on Wednesday and Pacers coach Frank Vogel rested all five of his starters.
If the Heat matches up with the Brooklyn Nets in the playoffs, the defending back-to-back champs will have to play out of its comfort zone to take the series, Chris Bosh said Tuesday.
The Heat lost all four of its games this season against the Nets, and the most recent defeat confirmed what Bosh already knew. His team struggles against opponents that slow down the pace and play deliberate, half-court offense. Three of the Heat’s losses to the Nets during the regular season were by one point. The other loss came after two overtime periods.
The Heat could meet the Nets in the second round of the playoffs. In postseason series that feature close fourth quarters throughout, every possession becomes an epic struggle. Always, execution is paramount. Consider this: The four games between the Heat and Nets this season featured a combined total of 36 lead changes.
“The margin of error is going to be very small because they slow it down, and you’re going to have to play their game — we are — because we like to get out and run with a fast-paced game and they get it and they slow it down,” Bosh told the Miami Herald. “So, we just have to beat them at that game.
“I think if we see them again we’ll just have to make sure to play a possession game with those guys. You got to get a good shot every time.”
The Heat, of course, has the capability of playing multiple styles of offense, especially in a playoff series with several days to prepare for an opponent. Ever since James and Bosh joined Wade in Miami, playoff opponents have attempted the grind-it-out game against the Heat, and mostly failed. Still, Eastern Conference playoff-bound teams like the Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls, Brooklyn Nets and Charlotte Bobcats have been built, in part, to counter the Heat’s frenetic tendencies.
“If a team wants to play that way, then they’re going to play that way,” Bosh said. “Get stops — that’s the most important thing, and our backside defense wasn’t very good [Tuesday].”