Game 3 of the NBA Finals has concluded and the Miami Heat have a well-earned 2-1 series lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder. The battle between LeBron James and Kevin Durant has been a clear focus throughout the series, and thus far neither has been disappointing. Some may argue that with Miami leading the series LeBron James without a doubt should be viewed as the better player of the two. While I do agree with that statement, this article will explain some other notable reasons for why the King truly is the King.
Based on statistics, LeBron James has narrowly been the better player. Here are some statistics that show how they measure up.
Lebron James: 30.3 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 4 apg, 1.7 spg, 46% fg, 86% ft, 9.7 fta
Kevin Durant: 31 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.6 apg, 1 spg, 1.3 bpg, 57% fg, 74% ft, 6.3 fta
While Durant has been a marginally better scorer and more efficient shooter, he has fallen short of James in essentially every other part of the game. Most would agree that from the beginning, Durant was the better scorer of the two, but his ability to score thus far has not outweighed the other areas of his game where LeBron James is superior. If Durant is to win the battle with James, and consequently the series, he must rebound with more aggressiveness and look to find open teammates (aside from Westbrook, but that is a whole different story).
Another area LeBron James has proven to been better than Durant in is leadership. James has been the catalyst for the Heat since game 1, and has been a consistent force that always produces, even when his teammates are in a rut. By all means, Dwyane Wade has yet to find his stride in the series and with a lackluster 8-22 performance in game 3, it was clear that James once again led the way for the Heat.
In contrast, Durant has failed to assert himself as the true leader of the team, and at times it was unclear if he or Russell Westbrook was the presiding first option. If Durant is to be successful going forward, he must demand the ball more and be more vocal on the court.
Defensively, Kevin Durant at times has seemed exploited by James. Very few in the league will ever be able to defend arguably the most athletic player in NBA history, but for Durant to be regarded as the best in the league he will have to try to at least contain the Miami Heat superstar.
On the other hand, James has pounded Durant around the paint as well as in the paint and should continue to do so as Durant does not have the size or strength to properly contend. The Thunder must find a way to give Durant efficient help on defence as there is no way he will find a way to stop James that close to the basket. Fortunately for the Heat, James has not had to guard Durant very often, with Shane Battier having taken those duties.
In conclusion, the Thunder will only go as far as Kevin Durant does. The same goes for the Heat and LeBron James. Surprisingly, Durant’s supporting cast has not been nearly as good as they have been earlier in the post season but regardless, Durant will need to improve his play if the Thunder are to be successful.
Will Durant turn the tide? Or will LeBron James continue to cruise for his first NBA championship? What do you think?