Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – If anyone had any doubt that Miami Heat superstar forward LeBron James was the MVP of the NBA this year, he put it all to rest with a dominating 5:35 stretch to close out a victory over the New Jersey Nets Monday night.
LeBron ended the game by scoring 17 straight points for the Heat in a game he didn’t have to play in and that the Heat didn’t need to win. LeBron not only closed the game with the scoring punch, but he also shot better than 50 percent from the field and missed just one out of 15 free throws in the game.
James also dished out seven assists and pulled down six rebounds to get the Heat a victory. The Heat didn’t look to be in the game throughout most of the contest until LeBron came back into the game with 5:35 left in the fourth quarter.
From then on, no one on the New Jersey Nets roster could do anything to stop LeBron and he proved that he can close out a game in a way that few, if any, NBA players could match.
During this condensed season, LeBron has led the Heat to its current record. Dwyane Wade has been out at various times for rest or recovering from injury and Chris Bosh has also missed a few games this season. The one constant throughout has been LeBron and his steady, superstar play.
For the season, LeBron is averaging 27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, 6.3 assists, and 1.9 steals per game while shooting just less than 53 percent from the field. For comparison, the other MVP candidate is Kevin Durant who is averaging 27.8 points, 7.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.4 steals per game while shooting 50 percent from the field.
Where the separation between the two players comes is just how much LeBron brings to the floor every time he’s playing.
LeBron averages 34 percent of the Heat’s points, 40 percent of the Heat’s free throws attempted, and 40 percent of the team’s assists when he’s on the court. He also contributes a quarter of the total rebounds the team has when he is playing.
LeBron is superior in assists, steals, points, and free throws attempted when he is on the court compared to Durant.
Many in the media have knocked LeBron for not coming through in the clutch, but even without Monday night’s fourth quarter demolition of the Nets, James is outperforming Durant in the clutch.
LeBron is shooting 45 percent in the final minutes of games this season compared to Durant’s 41 percent. James is also the superior rebounder and assist man in the final five minutes of games compared to Durant.
Durant is a much better free throw shooter in the clutch than LeBron and both players shoot within one percentage point of each other from three point range in the clutch, with Durant at 34 percent and LeBron at 33 percent.
While both players are statistically similar, without LeBron this season, the Heat may have struggled to get to the playoffs with Wade’s injuries. Oklahoma City has a much better overall roster than the Heat, but make no mistake, just like LeBron, Durant is the key to the Thunder’s dominating performances.
If LeBron continues to play well down the stretch of the last few games, he could sew up the MVP award. If he doesn’t, it’s likely a result of the bitter taste left in sports writers mouths due to the decision to join the Heat, which would be a shame.